BAR HARBOR — Town officials here are working to establish a charter commission for the first time in 10 years. The Town Council voted 6-1 last week to begin the process, suggested that the commission make recommendations on electronic voting, streamlining the budget process and aspects of the Warrant Committee.
Town Clerk Pat Gray will prepare an order to be signed by councilors at a future Town Council meeting, placing it on the ballot at an election.
The only input the Town Council would have on the commission would be the appointment of three of the six commissioners. The others would be elected by Bar Harbor voters. Once formed, the charter commission can look at the whole town charter, not just the sections suggested by the council.
The commission would recommend changes to the charter to the council. Councilors would have to place any amendments on a warrant to be confirmed by voters.
If the commission is confirmed by voters, a subsequent election would be held for three of the six seats. Potential nominees would have to take out nomination papers like other elected town officials.
Gray said the vote on whether to form a commission would likely take place in November rather than at the June town meeting. After the order is signed by councilors, 90 days must pass before the question is posed to voters.
Councilor Erin Cough cited the council’s goal set in the fall to form a commission as the impetus for her motion. One strategy listed under the “Citizen Involvement” section of the goals document expressly mentions forming a commission.
The Freedom of Access Act document request sent to Warrant Committee members was not mentioned during deliberations on the charter commission.
Councilor Paul Paradis voted in favor of a commission but said he was worried about the timing, as the town is discussing a number of contentious issues, like the upcoming bond for the ferry terminal property purchase.
“I worry that this is going to be sensory overload for the town,” he said. “I know when we did it in 2008, we had the exact same issues, and then some, and not a lot was accomplished.”
The Charter Commission formed in 2008 recommended a number of minor changes at the 2010 town meeting. Their changes, which included requiring one year as a registered voter before running for Town Council or School Committee and eliminating the position of secretary on the Town Council and School Committee, passed by a 1,069 to 202 vote.
Councilor Judie Noonan argued that the turbulent period discussion has involved more members of the community, making it the perfect time for a charter commission.
Councilor Gary Friedmann cast the only dissenting vote, saying that the commission’s power to look over the entire charter with no guidelines was a “can of worms” he did not want to open.