NEW GLOUCESTER — Information on a town charter form of government and the views of four selectmen candidates were presented at a public forum Wednesday night ahead of next month’s referendum and elections.

Candidates for the New Gloucester Board of Selectmen attend a forum Wednesday night. From left are Peter Bragdon, George Colby, Tammy Donovan and Steve Hathorne, who are vying for two seats on the board in the June election. Ellie Fellers photo

Norm Beauparlant of Poland, vice chairman of the former Poland Town Charter Committee, and Mitch Berkowitz, former town manager of Gray and Bridgton, answered questions on the pros and cons of a town charter, which sets out rules for governing towns and cities.

Poland adopted its charter in 2009; Gray in 2001.

“The recognizable difference is subtle and the effect spells out the town’s conduct and how it adopts laws,” Berkowitz said.

Beauparlant said Poland’s nine-member charter committee was guided by an attorney, and he advised members work to compromise when necessary to be successful.

Of 494 Maine towns, 25 percent have charters. Of towns with populations over 5,000, 82 percent have charters.

If New Gloucester residents vote in June to switch to a town charter from the current Board of Selectmen governance, a charter commission would be established to develop the document, followed by a town vote.

The forum was moderated by Barbara Kaufman of Portland and spearheaded by the New Gloucester Candidates/Referendum Committee, which partnered with the League of Women Voters.

Selectman candidates Peter Bragdon, George Colby, Tammy Donovan and Stephen Hathorne are vying for seats on the board. Each responded to questions on the role of selectmen, communication, transparency, a town charter, zoning and environmental protections.

All four said they favor some economic development, but not big-box stores. They also said timely information and communication with the public are needed.

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