June 20, 2018
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Hermon voters to decide charter amendments, fill unexpired council post

By Dawn Gagnon, BDN Staff

HERMON, Maine — Although a series of proposed amendments to the town charter were approved by a majority of the town’s voters in June, the total number of votes cast fell short of the number needed for the changes to be enacted.

That is why residents will be asked to revisit some of them when they go to the polls on Nov. 6 for the presidential vote and other key elections.

Also next month, voters will fill an unexpired town council position that opened up when former Councilor Sharon Nickerson stepped down earlier this summer, Town Manager Roger Raymond said Tuesday.

Three residents have stepped forward as candidates for the remainder of Nickerson’s term, which expires on June 30 of next year. They are Alden Brown, Jeanne Jacques and Donna Pulver.

The minimum number of votes cast to pass the amendments was 714 — or 30 percent of the total number of voters who participated in the last gubernatorial election, Interim Town Clerk Ruthann Dyer said earlier this summer.

Only 703 residents voted, 11 fewer than the cutoff, she said at that time.

On Tuesday, Raymond said that town officials have decided to put the charter update back before voters in November, when a large turnout is expected because of the presidential election.

This time, however, residents won’t be confronted with such a long list of boxes to check off, Raymond said. About half of the proposed amendments will appear on this year’s November ballot and the rest will be put before voters next year.

Raymond said that he, Dyer and town councilors have made a prioritized list and will put those before voters in the first round of voting.

The amendments now being considered originally went before voters in a townwide referendum on June 12.

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.

The proposed amendments were the product of more than a year’s work by a committee made up of town officials and residents, Raymond said.

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.

While the five groups of amendments to be decided next month are mostly housekeeping in nature, some noteworthy charges include requests to:

• Increase the number of consecutive three-year terms that town councilors and school committee members can serve from two to three.

• Require that annual school budgets be voted on at either the annual town meeting or a special town meeting to be called for that purpose. Proposed expenditures would have to be split into no fewer than the following line items: debt service, reserves, capital improvements and all other expenditures. The school budget plan would have to be submitted to the town manager at least 30 days before that annual or special town meeting.

• Increase the 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.

Another amendment would increase the dollar limit for expenditures and individual capital improvements requiring town meeting approval from $7,500 to $25,000.

Also, 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 last spring ’s flap over the use of funds from the town’s tax increment financing program to meet payroll.

A complete text of the proposed amendments is available at the town office.

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