Buxton voters narrowly decided Tuesday night that it might be time to have a town manager run things.

Residents voted 2,400 to 2,108, in a non-binding referendum, to allow the town to create a charter commission to study transforming from a selectman form of government to a town manager/selectman form of government.

“I think this town is big enough to have a town manager,” said Ron Smith, a Buxton resident and accountant who has been contracted by the town as an auditor. “It needs a full-time person in there to run the day-to-day operations of the town.”

Buxton’s current population is estimated to be 8,500, according to the town Web site. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the town’s population was 7,452 in 2000.

Buxton has also seen its share of controversial issues in the past six months, including the departure of a recreation director, who is under police investigation for mishandling town funds; the sudden departure of a fire chief; and the departure of Police Chief Jody Thomas, whose $46,000 severance package has been questioned by many residents.

Currently, the five-person Board of Selectmen meet weekly to administer town business, and some voters on Tuesday said they feel that is enough.

“I’m a little tired of the antics that go on with the selectman,” said Buxton resident Joe Ring. “There needs to be a moderator in there that says, ‘Let’s get down to business and stop the foolishness.'”

Others were reluctant to add a town manager to the payroll.

“I’m in favor of keeping it the way it is,” said Matt McGovern. “I don’t know if we need to pay another full-time employee to come into Buxton.”

The question read: “Do you favor changing Buxton selectmen form of government to a town manager-selectmen form of government?”

Selectmen will need to vote to change the town charter and then form a commission to formulate the changes. Selectmen will appoint three members to the commission, while six others will have to be elected. Residents will also need to approve a salary for the town manager.

Andy Townsend, a town firefighter who served as an interim fire chief, had initiated a petition calling for Buxton to hire a town manager by Nov. 1. Selectman in September, however, voted instead to have the non-binding referendum to gauge the town’s interest in moving to a town manager-selectman form of government.

The petition for a town manager recommends a salary of between $60,000 and $80,000.


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