February 10, 2013

Chelsea charter goes before residents

Members of the public will have their first chance to comment on the charter at Monday's hearing.

By PAUL KOENIG Kennebec Journal

CHELSEA - Residents will have their first chance to comment on the town's proposed charter Monday night before the charter commission revises it for a June vote at the annual town meeting.

Town residents voted 507-178 in the November 2011 election to establish a charter commission, partly in response to the confusion that followed former Selectwoman Carole Swan's arrest that February on fraud charges.

The Monday public forum is being held at the Chelsea Elementary School at 6:30 p.m.

A charter is essentially the constitution for a municipality, establishing the duties of town officials and rules for governing.

Ben Smith, chairman of the charter commission and Board of Selectman, said Maine law provides the framework for municipalities, and a charter lets towns and cities have more say over specifics. "You basically establish local control over issues," he said.

Chelsea's proposed charter won't change the basic structure of its government, but it will provide clearer guidelines of how to conduct business and what is expected of its elected officials, Smith said.

Many of the draft charter's articles say they are consistent with current practices in the town.

Maine Municipal Association spokesman Eric Conrad estimated that 80 Maine cities and towns have charters. An MMA study last updated in 1999 found that 75 municipalities had charters, he said.

Chelsea's charter commission consists of three members appointed by the Board of Selectmen and six elected in a special election in March 2012. The commission hosted a public forum last May before meeting about a dozen times to draft the charter.

After Monday's public hearing, the commission will consider any feedback or suggestions from residents before finalizing the charter for a vote at the town meeting.

Kennebec Journal Staff Writer Paul Koenig can be contacted at 621-5663 or at:



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