June 18, 2018
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Somerset County voters to weigh larger board of commissioners

By Christopher Cousins, BDN Staff

SKOWHEGAN, Maine — Somerset County voters will decide on Nov. 2 whether to institute a new charter document that will eliminate the association of political parties with appointments and increase the membership of the board of commissioners from three to five.

The charter, which was developed by a nine-member charter commission, would be the first such document enacted in Somerset County.

According to Sen. Peter Mills, R-Cornville, who was chairman of the charter commission, the document makes some sorely needed changes to the structure of county government, including spreading around the responsibility of day-to-day operations.

“Right now there’s a presumption that someone who is elected, namely the chairman of the three-member commission, is going to run the county,” said Mills. “That just isn’t practical anymore.”

Under the change, which would spread commissioners’ districts to individual parts of the county, the five commissioners each would represent no more than 10,000 residents, as opposed to the 17,000 they represent now. Each commissioner would serve a three-year term.

The charter would make no changes to which county positions are appointed, but would remove political affiliations in appointing people except for the district attorney, whose position is defined in state law.

According to a memo written by Elaine Aloes, vice chairwoman of the charter commission, the document also lays out processes for charter amendments, elected official recalls and county referendums. There is no process in place now to recall elected officials in Somerset County.

“We’re all hoping for passage,” said Mills of the charter commission members. “There are only two or three counties in the state that have a charter.”

The question on the Nov. 2 ballot will read as follows: “Shall the county approve the new charter recommended by the charter commission?”

To see the full text of the proposed charter, visit the county’s website at www.somersetcounty-me.org.

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