Cathy Cordes, Chair of the Charter and Bylaws Committee reported on her committee’s recommendations for several changes to the Town Charter at the Selectmen’s meeting September 23. The recommendations will be included on the Warrant for the Special Town Meeting on November 4. Charter changes approved by a two-thirds majority at the Special Town Meeting will then be included on the ballot for the Town Election as the second step in the process.
[A copy of the current Town Charter is available on the Town website. Click this link to read the document. The Charter adopted by the Town in 1974 structures how our local government functions].
The following is a summary of the recommendations that were presented to the Selectmen:
- A number are what are referred to as “housekeeping” issues throughout the Charter. Included are standardizing the use of the Oxford comma and capitalizing “T” in Town throughout the document, changes to clarify intent as well as to correct a limited number of grammatical errors.
- There are several recommendations for changes that continue the effort to advance the Charter as a gender-neutral document. Prominent among these is to change the term Selectman/Selectmen to the Select Board.
- Article 2—Town Meeting, Section 2-15: Clarification of language to state the expectation that all members of Town boards, commissions, and committees “shall consider it their responsibility” to attend Town Meeting. At a minimum, the chair or a designee shall attend to ensure that there will be someone to respond to relevant questions.
- Article 3—Selectmen, Section 3-3: Update of the list of appointments to be made by the Selectmen to remove the “Special Police Officers” who are no longer appointed by the Selectmen and re-formatted the list for clarity.
- Article 5—Town Manager, Section 5-1b: Adds the new provision that the Town Manager will have the responsibility “to appoint and remove, subject to the approval of the Board of Assessors, and will also supervise the day-to-day supervision of the Town Assessor.
- Article 5—Town Manager, Section 5-1g: Clarifies the intent of the requirement that the Town Manager take an annual inventory of all property of the Town by providing a threshold of $5,000 or more and reference to the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB),
- Article 5—Town Manager, Section 5-3: Reformatted for clarity as well as to reflect current practice.
Completing the report, Cordes listed a limited number of issues that were discussed by the Charter and Bylaws Review Committee with no consensus reached, the change was identified as problematic, or it was determined that the issue related to the Bylaws, not the Charter. These include the appointing authority for the Finance and Capital Expenditures Committee, changing the name of the Special Town Meeting to Fall Town Meeting and term limits for committee members and chairs.
Meeting throughout the summer, the Committee has solicited recommendations from all town departments, boards, committees, and citizens as well as engaged in active conversation at each meeting. The Committee will now turn its attention to a review of the Town Bylaws with the expectation that Bylaw changes related to the Charter may be presented at the March Town Meeting. Members of the Committee include: Cathy Cordes, Town Moderator and Chair, Betsey Anderson, Deputy Town Moderator and Clerk, Carol Amick, Maria Borino, Jan Shepard, Jacinda Barbehenn (Planning Board), Dan Brosgol (School Committee), Bruce Murphy (Board of Assessors), and Ed Pierce (Selectman).