TRENTON — The Board of Selectmen wants citizens to understand how their town government works and how they can participate.
The board has approved a fact sheet on selectmen’s meetings and town meetings, which is now posted on the town’s website. It includes information on when and where board meetings are held, how meetings are publicized and how meeting agendas are prepared.
“Any citizen wishing to place an item on the agenda may do so by calling the municipal clerk or one of the board members,” the fact sheet states. “While every effort is made to provide clarity on agenda items, prior to the board meeting, citizens may contact the municipal clerk for additional information on specific agenda items.”
The fact sheet also states that the selectmen have “a standing tradition of allowing any citizen to speak at a board meeting.”
The Board of Selectmen also has adopted an overview of town government, which is posted on the town’s website and is to be mailed to all new residents. The overview includes sections on town government, property tax bills, roads, law enforcement, waste management and code enforcement and licensing.
The town government overview and fact sheet were prompted by concerns expressed by a few citizens that the agendas for Board of Selectmen’s meetings did not always provide enough information about the issues to be discussed and that it might not be clear to everyone how decisions are made and how they can participate.
“Even before I was a board member, there was sometimes confusion about what was allowed or how to participate or who to talk to,” said Selectman Rachel Nobel, who was elected to the board last year. “I came onto the board hoping to increase transparency and increase ways of making sure people felt welcome to participate.”
Nobel worked with a small group of Trenton residents on a proposed board policy “to promote the efficient conduct of the board’s proceedings, adequate preparation for board members and transparency and public participation in town affairs.”
A majority of selectmen felt that a formal policy was not necessary. But they agreed that it would be useful to have an overview of town government and a fact sheet on selectmen’s meetings and town meetings that could be made available to the public.
“I’m delighted; it’s a real step,” Nobel said.
“It’s important that you can be engaged in the governance of your community, but you need to know how. I think making sure that tradition can carry on into the next generation of Mainers is really critical.”