AUBURN — Voters backed a new bid to restructure Androscoggin County government, voting in every ward and polling place in the county Tuesday to approve a charter.
"I think it was a vote for change in county government," said Chip Morrison, who served on the nine-member Charter Commission that began its work in early 2011. "People want a government that is more responsive and more professional."
That new government will create a full-time county administrator position, set term limits and other rules and also expand the policy-making County Commission from three to seven members.
The overall vote was 28,853 in favor and 20,134 against.
The new commission is scheduled to be elected in fall 2014 and take office the following January. Until then, the current commission will have to redistrict the county. They may also decide to hire a county administrator. None is in the current 2013 spending proposal, now being considered by the county's Budget Committee.
The Charter Commission created the 16-page charter after combing through a wide variety of details. They ranged from how long a commissioner's term would last (four years) to where the county seat would be (it will remain in Auburn).
The new document has a recall provision that gives voters a chance to oust a commissioner. It allows the commission to remove a commissioner who doesn't attend meetings, behaves poorly in the meetings or displays "moral turpitude."
It also calls for the instant removal from office of a commissioner who moves out of his or her elected district.
"I love it," Morrison said of the vote. "It's gratifying to work nearly two years on something and see it actually happen."
The current County Commission was split on the charter.
Commissioner Elaine Makas was a vocal supporter of the charter and the work that went into it.
"I'm very, very happy that it has passed," she said. She favors the expansion of the commission, saying three members is too small. "If you add other people, you add other wisdom to the group."
Commissioners Randall Greenwood and Beth Bell, both of whom were re-elected Tuesday, argued that the expansion was too much.
"My biggest concern is that I view it as growing government," Bell said. "I actually think it will be less efficient," she said. She and Greenwood also criticized the charter's recall procedure as too open-ended.
Greenwood said it could be abused and cause someone to be removed without cause.
"A recall should only be for some reason, not just Commissioner X didn't vote the way I wanted him to," Greenwood said.