June 24, 2018
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Hermon voters to decide charter changes

By Dawn Gagnon, BDN Staff

HERMON, Maine — In addition to their usual local elections and school budget validation vote, residents here will be asked to consider a series of proposed amendments to their town charter.

Voters also will be asked to consider spending $160,932 to buy the house and land at 299 Fuller Road, next door to the town office and public safety building.

The proposal to buy the property in the event it might be needed for a future expansion was defeated by a single vote when it went before voters during a special town meeting in January attended by slightly more than 50 people.

The votes are set to take place on Tuesday, June 12, Town Manager Clinton Deschene said in an interview last week. The polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Hermon Elementary School.

The annual town meeting, during which voters will be asked to approve a municipal budget and handle other housekeeping matters, is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, June 14, in the Hermon High School auditorium.

The last time the town charter was updated was in November 2009, according to a copy of the charter posted on the town’s website.

Deschene said last week that the proposed amendments are the product of more than a year’s work by a committee composed of town officials and residents. The changes are being put before voters as a group rather than individually.

The proposed changes involve several aspects of local government ranging from the Town Council and its operations to the way town meetings and elections are run.

A complete text of the proposed amendments is available at the town clerk’s office. Some highlights include:

• Two amendments would require that any new municipal job be approved by the Town Council and prohibit councilors and their immediate family members from being appointed to a job created while that councilor holds office.

• Other amendments would increase annual stipends for council members and school board members from $1,000 to $1,500 a year, with the exception of the chairman, who would be paid an extra $250 a year for holding that post as opposed to the current $100. The vice chairman’s additional pay of $50 a year would increase to $100 a year.

• Town Council meeting agendas and public hearing notices will have to be be posted in three specific locations — one of them the town office. They also would have to be posted on the town’s website, as is the current practice.

• Town meetings — annual and special — will be governed by the latest edition of the Maine Moderator’s Manual rather than Robert’s Rules of Order and the town’s attorney or a designee will have to be present. In addition, the dollar limit for expenditures and individual capital improvements requiring town meeting approval would increase from $7,500 to $25,000.

• The Town Council would be required to appoint a town manager should the town manager die, become permanently disabled or otherwise unable to perform his or her duties.

• With the approval of at least five town councilors, up to 25 percent or $750,000 — whichever is less — of the town’s reserve account funds could be used to meet cash flow. The accounts would have to be repaid. Such a provision could have prevented the recent flap over the use of funds from the town’s tax increment financing program to meet payroll.

• Write-in votes would only be counted for residents who formally declare themselves write-in candidates at least seven days before Election Day.

Deschene said he was not aware of any other Maine town with that requirement but noted that the charter committee thought it made sense to take that approach as a way of verifying that candidate’s interest in a position. It also would help streamline the town’s ballot-counting process, he said.

• Rules prohibiting personal financial gain that now apply to elected officials also would be applied to candidates, employees and members of committees and boards.

Correction: A previous version of this story said one of the proposed charter changes would allow up to $70,000 of the town’s reserve account funds to be used to meet cash flow. The correct amount is $750,000.

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