Rumford board reappoints three to Charter Commission

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RUMFORD — Selectmen on Thursday night heard about progress the Charter Commission has made and received a preliminary report from the panel.

They also voted to reappoint three members whose one-year term expired Oct. 1. But they did not move to extend the terms of elected commission members as previously requested, because that wasn’t on the board’s agenda.

Commission Chairman Christopher Brennick updated the board on the commission’s progress since last December, when they organized.

“This board has done a good job getting feedback from people who have knowledge of the charter,” Brennick said. They also took comment from people who wanted to see some changes made to the 1951 document in order to make it work more efficiently.

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He said the only reason they’re seeking an extension of the elected group’s terms is because they have 10 questions that need to be answered by a lawyer, and town attorney Jennifer Kreckel hasn’t been available.

Brennick said Kreckel recommended they seek outside counsel.

“I think the commission is doing strong work, meaningful work,” Brennick said.

He suggested that selectmen extend their terms through the end of the year, at the very least.

According to the preliminary report, the commission voted to recommend:

* Rumford maintain the secret ballot as the final approval process for the budget and that the Finance Committee consist of selectmen and five members elected in the same manner as selectmen. This was done to eliminate having two numbers on the ballot from which voters could choose.

* Language to allow selectmen to hold their organizational meeting within 24 hours of the closing of town meeting balloting instead of immediately after the results for the selectmen candidates are known.

* Modifying provisions for the town manager’s appointment to end on the board’s last regularly scheduled meeting prior to the end of the fiscal year. Rumford runs on a fiscal year from July 1 to June 30.

* Removing the section that requires the town manager to attend all selectmen meetings, to act as the board’s secretary and to sign the minutes.

* Eliminating the appointment of selectmen by the remaining board when a vacancy occurs.

Extending the commission’s terms “makes sense,” Selectman Jeff Sterling said. “Of course, I expect the commission to be done with its work by Feb. 1.”

Selectman Mark Belanger asked Brennick to give the tally of the commission’s vote on the preliminary report.

Brennick said the tally was either 6-0 or 5-0. One commission member had left during the meeting, and he wasn’t sure if that had occurred before or after the vote was taken.

Madigan said the three people appointed to the commission — Michael Peter Chase, Amy Bernard and Kevin Saisi —  were named Oct. 1, 2013. The other six were elected in November. Madigan said he advised the appointed members to go to the next commission meeting, but not to vote.

He reminded selectmen they were asked at their Sept. 22 meeting if they wanted to extend the commission members’ terms. But the board didn’t act on it then, because it wanted the commission’s overdue preliminary report.

Selectman Frank DiConzo said they didn’t necessarily have to reappoint Chase, Bernard and Saisi. They could appoint different members.

Brennick asked the board to base its decision on statute rather than content.

Selectmen Chairman Greg Buccina said he was under the impression that the commission is bogged down and not accomplishing anything. He said they need to give the community a user-friendly charter.

That’s what they are trying to do, Brennick said.

Buccina said the work needs to be completed by Feb. 1 and if there are legal issues remaining at that time, the board can take it up with legal counsel.

Bernard said the group has spent 89 hours going through the charter, page by page, trying to make it more efficient. The nine members each have different ideas on how it should work with the regionalization with Mexico, he said.

The board voted 3-2 to extend the appointed members’ terms for a year.

DiConzo and Belanger dissented.

tkarkos@sunjournal.com

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