HARRISON — Two of the town’s five selectmen listened to a 90-minute discussion on a proposal to change the form of government Tuesday night, but put off the remainder of their agenda items for lack of a quorum.
Resident John Ebinger had requested the selectmen have a public discussion on his proposal to change from a selectmen/town meeting/town manager form of government to a selectmen/town meeting/administrator form of government. The latter form gives more power to selectmen.
“It would be a subtle change,” Ebinger told board Chairman Bill Winslow and Selectman Eddie Rolfe. “There has been a conflict between the (former) town manager and the selectmen,” a reference to Brad Plante, who resigned in mid-September.
“Since we’re in the process of looking for a town manager now, that person could be the administrator, or whatever you want to call him or her.”
Ebinger said the administrator would recommend actions to the selectmen, “But you would decide — you wouldn’t be just rubber-stamping what the town manager does.”
Brian Spaulding supported the proposal, saying, “I think you could save a fair amount of money.”
Mike Morrisette agreed.
“But I’m a little concerned — I only see two selectmen here tonight,” he said.
“One is stranded, one has a family issue and one told us two weeks ago she would be out of town,” Winslow said.
Town Clerk Judy Colburn, who is acting town manager, said she would like to keep the town manager form.
“Harrison has had two managers in the last 20 years — they were as different as night and day,” she said. “After sitting in this position for a month, I would like to see the town have a town manager who can do the job well and lead the town in a different direction. I think there’s someone out there who can help us.”
Rolfe said a decision doesn’t have to be made this week or this month.
“I would like to ask some selectmen from other towns that have an administrator to come and talk to us. I wish we could have another meeting, and look at the facts for both forms of government.”
Morrisette agreed, saying, “I would like the Board of Selectmen to investigate this. When it was first brought up, one of the selectmen dismissed it out of hand. He said it would never work. Do your homework.”
“Our problem was the personality of the former town manager, not the form of government,” Winslow said. “We had a lot of trouble with employee rights and the Right To Know law. It’s a real problem when you’re trying to make a decision, you have to notify the public seven days in advance.”
Rolfe asked for a show of hands of those who “want to get more information from other towns.” Nearly everyone raised their hands.
Winslow agreed there should be a committee.
“After the election is over, we could call it Concerned Citizens for Better Government,” Rolfe said.
“I would like to thank all of you who came,” he added. “At the next meeting, bring a friend.”