May 27, 2018
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Ellsworth charter updates on ballot

By Rich Hewitt, BDN Staff

ELLSWORTH, Maine — City voters will be asked to adopt a revised and updated city charter when they go to the polls next week.

The proposed changes to the city charter appear as a referendum question on the Nov. 2 ballot and are the results of more than a yearlong study of the document. It is the first comprehensive charter review since it was updated in 1986, according to City Manager Michelle Beal.

The charter establishes the city as a municipal entity and provides a framework for all city functions.

Much of the work of the charter commission involved clarifying and updating the charter, Beal said. The commission, for example, substantially rewrote the section on Business and Financial Provisions.

“We looked at borrowing by the council and at different financial practices in order to align them with generally accepted accounting principals,” she said.

Likewise, although the commission left the current structure of the city library intact, including its administration by a board of trustees, it revised charter language that would allow the library to be more integrated into the city structure. This will allow the library to take advantage of city resources and to work more closely with the city treasurer on financial matters.

In light of the city’s participation in Regional School Unit 24, the commission revised the section on the school committee to say that it no longer exists. The commission’s report notes that it left the structure for a school committee in place in the event the city decides to withdraw from the RSU in the future.

The charter commission also revised the section on the city manager to better fit the city council form of government.

“The way the charter was written before,” Beal said, “it protected the city manager more than the city.”

The revised charter includes a code of conduct for councilors that includes procedures councilors must follow as well as attendance standards for council and committee meetings, and it establishes a procedure for declaring a seat vacant under certain conditions, Beal said.

Regarding elections, the commission recommended maintaining the current process by which councilors run “at-large” and on a nonpartisan basis even though the city is divided into four wards for election purposes.

City voters also will elect municipal officers next Tuesday and there is a four-way race for three seats on the City Council. Incumbents Gary Fortier and Pamela Perkins are seeking re-election, while Michael Boucher and Roger Lessard are seeking a three-year position on the council.

There are no other contested races. Rebecca Leamon is the only candidate for a three-year term on the library board of trustees, and Michelle DeWitt is the sole candidate on the ballot for the three-year term on the RSU 24 school board.

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