AUGUSTA — City councilors have voted once again to send several proposed city charter changes to voters in a citywide referendum in June.

The second council vote was necessary after councilors’ 6-2 decision on April 5 in favor of putting the same seven proposed charter changes on the June ballot because officials mistakenly didn’t hold a required public hearing on the topic before that vote.

So councilors, after holding the required public hearing, voted again Thursday night — 4-2 this time, but still in favor of sending the charter changes to voters June 12. That’s when residents also are expected to decide whether to approve the proposed school budget and elect a new member to the school board, as well as vote in party primary races.

City Manager William Bridgeo said the city staff, including himself, forgot to hold the required public hearing before the April vote, even though the council process of considering the changes had included opportunities for the public to comment.

Only resident Kevin Lamoreau, who follows local election-related issues closely, commented on the proposed changes Thursday. Lamoreau said he supported the proposal to pose the charter change questions to voters, though he said he probably will vote against one of them, the proposal to replace the current charter requirement that a charter commission be established every 10 years to review the charter, with a requirement city councilors only determine, every 10 years, whether to establish a charter commission.

“I’m going to vote for most of them, but I’ll probably vote against summary question three,” Lamoreau said Thursday, referring to the change of the 10-year charter commission requirement. “But I think it’s good to bring it to the voters. I think this has been a good process.”

Councilors Linda Conti, Ward 1, and Darek Grant, Ward 2, voted against the proposal to send the seven charter changes to voters, as they did in April.

Neither spoke out on the proposal Thursday. Grant has said previously he thinks changes to the charter should be reviewed and proposed by a charter commission, following the current 10-year requirement to form a commission the charter currently requires.

Councilors approved seven questions for the June 12 ballot that summarize the proposed charter changes. The charter is the city’s main guiding document, specifying the structure of city government and how it functions.

In addition to the proposal to remove the 10-year charter commission requirement, the proposed changes also would:

• move the first City Council meeting of the year from Monday to Thursday, which is the night councilors meet regularly, and allow a dedimus justice to administer the oath of office to newly elected councilors and school board members;

• remove a requirement that ordinances adopted as emergencies be re-enacted within 61 days;

• provide for a 120-day leave of absence for council and school board members, after which the official could be deemed to have resigned;

• raise the limit of the debt that councilors can incur without going to voters for approval from $750,000 to $1 million;

• require that nomination papers be made available 100 days before elections and returned 60 to 75 days before the election; and

• clarify term limits to specify a school board member may serve three consecutive terms as chairperson of the board after his or her term as a regular board member has expired.

The full text of the charter changes is viewable on the city clerk’s website.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj


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