Charter commission seeks public input

BAR HARBOR — The charter commission is invites the public to participate in their work to review and discuss the town charter.

The commission’s goal is to draft a report within nine months, and propose changes to the charter as they see fit. Proposed changes would need to be approved by voters at town meeting by secret ballot before they take effect.

The commission is currently in the review and discussion stage, according to commission chair Michael Gurtler. They meet biweekly on Wednesday mornings, he said, “going through the charter once section at a time… in an organized and thoughtful matter.”

In May, the commission will revisit the schedule and it may change at that point, he said, “because many commission members have seasonal businesses.”

A public hearing on Jan. 7 launched the charter commission’s work. At the hearing, many people spoke in favor of the warrant committee, though some questioned its specific duties, especially pertaining to land use articles and budget review.

Other people had general comments about town government, such as having town councilors elected by district, and instituting term limits on elected and appointed officials.

The commission spent the first meeting reviewing all the written input and public hearing comments, organizing them into what section of the charter they pertain to.

“Everybody on the commission felt like public participation is useful,” Gurtler said, “[so] we’ve added a public comment period to each public meeting.”

Each public comment period will deal with what’s on the published agenda, Gurtler said. Agendas will be posted on the town’s website as they become available.

Gurtler also encouraged people who cannot attend meetings to contact the commission by letter or email.

I addition to requesting input from the public, the commission has also been asking information from town staff as needed.

“We certainly encourage folks to keep abreast of what’s going on,” Gurtler said. “There’s no reason to do our work in a vacuum.”

The creation of a temporary charter commission to review the town’s governing document was approved by a vote of 1,624 to 937 on Nov. 6. Six of the nine members were elected by voters, and three were appointed by town councilors.

Becky Pritchard
Former Islander reporter Becky Pritchard covered the town of Bar Harbor and was a park ranger in Acadia for six seasons.
Becky Pritchard

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