Hallowell residents will have the opportunity to vote Nov. 8 on a new City Charter that will shape the way the city does business for decades.

The Hallowell Charter Commission, created last year, made several recommendations to the city council, including changes to the way the police chief is appointed each year and to the terms of city councilors.

The eight-person panel worked more than 12 months on reviewing and recommending potential changes to the charter, which hasn’t had many changes since it was written more than 60 years ago.

The proposed amended charter stipulates that certain positions that fall under the supervision of the city manager would be subject only to an initial approval by the council. After that, the city manager would handle all matters of employment under normal practices.

As the charter is currently written, the police and fire chiefs, for example, are reappointed to those positions every January and the reappointments are then voted on by the new council. The problem with that, commission Chairman Stephen Langsdorf said, is that the council doesn’t have all the necessary information about the chiefs’ employment in order to make a decision about whether or not they should be reappointed.

“Councilors were being asked to vote on a reappointment without any knowledge of their actual employment history,” Langsdorf said in August. The new charter says that people in the process of serving their term would not be reappointed this January; they wouldn’t need to be reappointed until their term expires.

“Instead of having a long list of yearly appointments (by the Mayor), the appointments will be made one time for the length of the term of office for their respective position,” said Langsdorf, of the law firm Preti, Flaherty, Beliveau & Pachios LLP.

Langsdorf and the commission also recommended changing the terms of the mayor and city councilors, which are now two-year positions. Two-year terms, Langsdorf said, causes the possible turnover each year of half the council, so the commission proposed staggered three-year terms.

The 2017 election would include the mayor and councilors from Ward 2 and Ward 4 elected to three-year-terms, and one at-large councilor would be elected to a two-year term.

The next year, the councilors from Ward 1 and 5, and one at-large councilor, will be elected to three-year terms, and the councilor from Ward 3 will be elected to a one-year term. Subsequently, the charter says, the term of office for each councilor and the mayor will be three years.

Langsdorf, city attorney for Augusta, said they staggered council terms in the capital city in 1998 and “it’s worked very well because it’s a more modern way of doing business.”

Another change recommended by the commission places a limit of $249,999 that the council could borrow without voter approval. Currently, there is no limit, and because of all the money and bonding being discussed in connection with the Stevens Commons redevelopment, the Charter Commission placing a limit on the council’s borrowing power was “appropriate.”

The Charter Commission held a few public meetings to discuss their proposals, but nobody attended the first one in March. There were two councilors and a few people at the August meeting, which Langsdorf called “an enormously bigger turnout.”

If voters approve the new charter Nov. 8, it would take effect Jan. 1, 2017.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ


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