North Yarmouth residents to consider installing town manager position

Posted May 28, 2013, at 11:15 a.m.

NORTH YARMOUTH, Maine — Voters will decide June 11 whether to adopt a revised Town Charter, which calls for the administrative assistant to be replaced by a town manager.

The Charter Commission, which also recommends moving Town Meeting from June to April, began its review of the 31-year-old charter last August.

The commission found that the burden of the Board of Selectmen has increased, while the duties of the administrative assistant have also expanded, to include those usually performed by a town manager.

The manager would be the town’s chief executive and administrative officer, and the day-to-day governmental responsibilities of the Board of Selectmen would shift to that person, enabling the board to focus on larger policy matters, according to the commission.

The commission rejected a Town Council form of government in favor of the existing Town Meeting. But the panel found that moving Town Meeting from early spring to June in recent years caused scheduling conflicts and made it more difficult for many residents to attend, and is proposing a return to April.

A charter amendment, rather than an overhaul of the document, could change the date again if the April scheduling does not boost attendance.

The revised charter gives the Board of Selectmen the ability to make “ministerial” ordinance changes, such as correcting editorial or typographical errors, or errors in town forms or statutory references. The document also reduces the terms of office of Planning Board and Zoning Board members from five to three years, matching them with other appointed board and committee members.

The revisions also include reducing the size of the Budget Committee from nine members to seven, and the redefinition of permanent committees and boards, distinguishing between those with elected members, and those with members appointed by selectmen.

If the new charter is approved by voters, the current document would become void, and the Board of Selectmen could appoint an interim town manager.

Commission Chairwoman Audrey Lones said this spring that there is no reason Marnie Diffin, the town’s administrative assistant, could not serve as an interim manager, or as manager, if the Board of Selectmen hires her.

Diffin has declined to discuss the revision.

“Until such time as the board has an opinion or motion on the proposed charter, as administrative assistant I have no opinion or statement to make,” she said. “As an employee whose position of employment is being proposed to be eliminated, I am in a conflict-of-interest position.”

The proposed revision can be viewed at northyarmouth.org, picked up at the town office or mailed to a home by calling the office at 829-3705.

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