Bar Harbor — The Warrant Committee is recommending against a plan to work on major changes to the town’s charter.
In March, town officials began working to establish a charter commission for the first time in ten years.
The commission can only be formed with approval from the voters and the question is set for the November ballot. Article 2 on the ballot will be the question of whether to form the commission. A subsequent article, 2A, is a vote for charter commission members; the town is already accepting nominations for commission members.
Of the 13 members present at the Sept. 4 warrant committee meeting, three voted in favor of recommending the formation of a charter commission, nine voted against, and one abstained.
The town council voted 6-1 to approve the formation of a charter commission in a March meeting. They suggested that the commission make recommendations on electronic voting, streamlining the budget process, and the warrant committee.
If voters approve the formation of a charter commission, a nine-member temporary commission would review the town’s 25-page charter. The only input the Town Council would have would be the appointment of three of the nine commissioners. The others would be elected by voters. Once formed, the charter commission may review the whole town charter, not just the sections suggested by the council.
The commission would bring any recommended charter changes to the council. Councilors would have to place any amendments on a warrant to be confirmed by voters.
Warrant Committee member Jake Jagel argued commissioners could not be elected in November according to the current town charter. Larry Sweet referred to an email from town attorney Ed Bearor, which said the timeline proposed by the town is “in good legal standing.”
Sweet was one of the few members who argued in favor of starting a charter commission. “There are communities out there who have in their charters regular and periodic reviews of their charters,” he said. “It’s not uncommon…So I think this is a good healthy practice to have for our community.”
Anne Marie Quin said that while she agrees there is “no harm” in reviewing the charter, she thinks “this is not the time.”
Others echoed this sentiment. Mike Good asked Matt Hochman, a town council member who was present at the Warrant Committee meeting, to comment on “why the charter commission idea came up now.”
“It’s not about the Warrant Committee,” Hochman said. He explained there are multiple charter amendments to be considered, including recommendations the Warrant Committee has made to the town council which they have not acted on. “Only a charter commission can act on that,” he said.