BIDDEFORD — The City Council voted 8-1 Tuesday in favor of allowing Biddeford voters to determine if they would like to establish a Charter Review Commission, which could make changes to the current city charter.

The question will be added to the ballot in November, Mayor Alan Casavant said in an email Wednesday. “If they vote no, it is dead,” he added.

Before the vote, councilors briefly debated the matter but seemed, for the most part, in favor of establishing the commission.

“I’m fully in support of this moving forward,” said Councilor Marc Lessard. “It’s really the time that input is needed, and (the charter) is something that needs to be reviewed consistently.”

But when the public was allowed to weigh in, Biddeford resident and former city councilor Richard Rhames expressed doubt over whether the commission would actually get anything done.

Similarly, Councilor Bob Mills said Charter Review Commissions have in the past struggled to make significant changes to the charter.

“When you reopen the charter it’s difficult to try to get the charter commissioners to target a specific area,” he said. “It’s very unfortunate … (but) it turns into a political document that people try to throw their own personal agendas onto.”

Mills, who was the only councilor to vote against the measure, said he would not support it because he does not think a new commission would accomplish the things that he or his constituents would like to see get done.

“It’s going to turn into another political committee that probably won’t get anything accomplished,” he said.

Even the councilors who supported asking voters if they would like to establish a Charter Review Commission conceded that it would be difficult to direct commissioners and have them target specific areas of the charter. Council Chair John McCurry said councilors could “make suggestions” to the commission but would ultimately have no authority over it.

Resident and former councilor Roch Angers told councilors that he supports establishing a commission because the charter, as it stands, contains too much language that is prone to a wide range of interpretations.

“We should have another take at the charter and see if we can take care of some ambiguous areas,” he said. “Different people read it in different ways and I think it needs to be better spelled out.”

Angers said he was particularly upset because recently, two of the nine councilors and Casavant did not attend a general meeting of the citizens that he organized through a successful petition drive.

“I honestly feel that it should be spelled out (in the charter) just as black and white as you can possibly put it that you need to be there when the citizens of Biddeford tell you,” he said.

— Staff Writer Angelo J. Verzoni can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 329 or [email protected]



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