CHELSEA — A special town meeting is scheduled for March 27 to elect six people to a new group that aims to change how the town is governed.

Elizabeth Cousins, former selectman Richard Danforth, Maria Jacques, Scott Ludwig, Barbara Skehan and Charles Skehan all turned in nomination papers for the nine-member Charter Commission. Polls will be open Tuesday, March 27, 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. at the Town Office.

Three of the commission positions were appointed by the select board: residents Peter Hanson and Elizabeth Larrabee, and Selectman Ben Smith.

Residents voted to establish a Charter Commission on Nov. 8.

Town Manager Scott Tilton said the creation of a town charter would outline how the community is governed. The commission could choose to increase the number of selectmen; include a recall provision for elected officials; and have seats on the Budget Committee become elected positions — all ideas that have been discussed recently.

“The options are endless,” Tilton said.

Smith, the selectman, said the town would have benefited from having rules regarding removal of a select board member because of former selectwoman Carole Swan, who refused to resign from the board following her arrest a year ago. Swan, whose case is pending in federal court, is accused of misusing town money and soliciting more than $20,000 in kickbacks from a Whitefield plow contractor.

Tilton said the adoption of a charter would provide the town with clear rules for better self-governance, rather than relying on state regulations.

“The charter would have the final authority on certain issues,” he said.

Smith said a charter could also specify an annual budget process, outline duties of town officials, prioritize road maintenance and lay out the rules for selecting and funding capital improvement projects.

The commission will be given two years to draft a municipal charter. Once the commission presents its final report, a special election will be held for possible adoption of the charter. The town will hold public hearings and other meetings to get public reaction, town officials said.

Residents on March 27 also will vote on whether to enact a fireworks ordinance drafted by the town’s Safe Fire Works Committee. The ordinance would restrict the sale, use and possession of fireworks in town.

“The ordinance has gone through several rounds of meetings with the committee,” Tilton said. “The committee felt it was in the best interest of Chelsea to have this in place.”

Applications for absentee ballots are available at the town office. Tilton said absentee ballots will be available after Feb. 27.

A public hearing is scheduled for Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. at the Town Office to discuss the fireworks ordinance, and a selectmen’s meeting will follow at 6:30 p.m.

Mechele Cooper — 621-5663

[email protected]


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