Town Charter does not impede progress
To the Editor:
In the previous edition of the Rumford Falls Times, it was expressed that the town's acceptance of a grant violates the Town Charter.
This is not accurate. Our Town Charter has often been accused of getting in the way of progress, but too often those who encounter a roadblock suggest doing away with the Town Charter rather than seeking a solution.
Our town government is run by the citizens. Through our Town Charter, we empower our elected leaders to perform certain tasks. With power come responsibility and limitations. Unless expressly stated in the Town Charter, the Board of Selectmen cannot obligate the town beyond the next annual town meeting (business meeting and election).
The grant being proposed required the town to commit to maintaining a police force of a certain size for a duration of four years. Further, it required the town to pay the officer whose position was funded by the grant on the fourth year.
When it was verified that the Town Charter did not allow the board to make such a commitment, nobody asked what procedure could be followed to take advantage of the funding opportunity. But, there was a solution.
While it is true that the Board of Selectmen cannot commit the town beyond the next annual town meeting, the citizens can make such a commitment in a special town meeting. Had the proposal been brought in time, a special town meeting could have been held for such authorization. Another option would be to apply for the grant, and if it is awarded to our town, have a special town meeting to accept or reject it.
Of course, the requirements for calling a special town meeting indicate that the board needs to declare that the meeting is being held regarding a critical circumstance. This grant is designed to retain police officers. The crime level on our streets has remained steady despite a declining population.
The decision as to whether or not this constitutes a critical circumstance would be up to the Board of Selectmen. The decision whether or not to accept the grant would be up to the voters.
Kevin N. Saisi,