MERRIMACK CHARTER COMMISSION
Commission members present: Chairman Tom Mahon, Vice Chairman Heather Anderson, Secretary Fran L’Heureux, Peter Batula, Bob Kelley, Finlay Rothhaus, Tim Tenhave, Lon Woods, and David Yakuboff.
Chairman Mahon convened the meeting of the Charter Commission at 7:01pm in the District Courtroom.
Chairman Mahon announced that the July 26, 2005 public meeting of the Charter Commission will be broadcast live and invited residents to attend this meeting to speak on their views for a recommended form of government.
A motion was made by Peter Batula and seconded by Bob Kelley to accept the minutes as printed. The motion carried 9-0-0. The members discussed their desired protocol for the distribution and approval of minutes. Chairman Mahon affirmed that the normal protocol would be to have the minutes distributed in advance of the meetings and to act upon the previous meeting’s minutes at each meeting.
Reports – Chairman
Chairman Mahon stated the public hearing notice was in the local paper today. He is drafting a letter to five or six municipal attorneys, to see who would be interested in assisting the Charter Commission. He is also putting together a brief introductory presentation for the public hearing. Chairman Mahon stated that he had contacted seasoned municipal administrator Jim McSweeney and arranged for him to participate in a question and answer dialogue with the Commission at the August 2nd meeting.
Reports – Vice Chairman
Vice Chairman Anderson stated that she was working to put the finishing touches on the website. She has established a list serve for interested parties to subscribe, as well as an email distribution list for the members of the Commission to share information and/or to receive comments from the public. She agreed to establish an email account that members could sent to for archive purposes.
Review Commission Procedures
Lon Woods suggested a cut-off time for agenda submissions. Vice Chairman Anderson suggested that agenda item submissions should be to the Chair by the end of day Wednesday and be ready for posting on Thursday. Peter Batula suggested a new title of “Other” or “New Business” be added to the agenda. Vice Chairman Anderson suggested combining items #2 & #3 on the Commission Procedures to avoid confusion. The members agreed by consensus without objection to the Commission Procedures.
Review Public Comment Protocol
Vice Chairman Anderson asked the Chairman to clarify that the intent of the “Public Comment” portion of each meeting is for the regular meetings and not for the public hearings. The Chairman concurred.
Tim Tenhave recommended that the public be afforded the opportunity to speak at the beginning of the meeting and recommended that “Public Comments” on the agenda be moved to after “Reports”. David Yakuboff stated the public comments at the beginning of the regular meeting should be relevant to agenda items. Chairman Mahon stated he would also like to have Public Comments at the end of the regular meetings.
Web Site Update
Vice Chairman Anderson noted that there are approximately 20 charters from NH municipalities posted on the Charter’s web site as well as links to resources, the Commission’s timeline, meeting schedule, a brief history of Merrimack’s original land charters and the formation of this Charter Commission, minutes, agendas, and an email interface for communications regarding the charter process and the Charter Commission. She explained how the e-mail interface is set up and how the public could e-mail one or all the Commissioners, as well as subscribe themselves to an information list serve. Secretary L’Heureux asked if forms to speak at meetings could be put on the Charter Commission’s website and the public could print them out in advance of attending the meeting. Chairman Anderson stated that it could be done once she was supplied with the form.
Tim Tenhave questioned how the archives will be handled after the Charter process has come to conclusion. Vice Chairman Anderson explained that all information on the website would be stored on CD(s) and submitted to the Town for record keeping. In the interim, any Right to Know Law requests should go through the Town Manager’s Office. Chairman Mahon spoke on how e-mail is a public document.
Another suggested featured for the web site was to develop a “FAQ” (Frequently Asked Questions) page based on any common questions the Commission may receive.
Review Meeting Schedule
Vice Chairman Anderson handed out a tentative meeting schedule through November 15, 2005. David Yakuboff stated a conflict with November 15 and suggested November 8 as an alternative for the public hearing. Tim Tenhave remarked that holding the second public hearing a week earlier may provide the Commission some additional time if the public hearing shows that the recommendation is moving in the wrong direction. The schedule was adjusted to show the November 8, 2005 date.
Discuss Public Hearing
Tim Tenhave suggested that the Chairman contact the chairs of other boards, committees, and commissions and ask if they could make announcements regarding the public hearing, the Commission’s regular meetings, and the web site. Commissioner Tenhave also suggested asking the members of the various Town boards, committees, and commissions to attend the Commission’s meetings and make comments and suggestions. Chairman Mahon stated that he would follow up on the suggestions.
Forms of Government Review Sub-Committees
The following sub-committees were formed to look into the different forms of government available:
Current Form – Tom Mahon (chair), Tim Tenhave, and Bob Kelley
City Form – Dave Yakuboff (chair), Heather Anderson, and Peter Batula
Town Form – Finlay Rothhaus (chair), Lon Woods, and Fran L’Heureux
It was decided that the sub-committees would share their reports at the Commission’s August 16 meeting. The report would examine, at minimum, each form of government’s organizational / structure chart; budgeting process, method(s) used to adopt ordinances; requirements for the approval of bonds and other financing; adoption or revisions to planning and zoning regulations; and conducting elections. Chairman Mahon requested that each of the sub-committee’s meetings be posted with date – time – location.
There was discussion on inviting representatives from towns and cities who have gone through the charter process before Merrimack to attend the meetings. Chairman Mahon stated that he had already contacted representatives from the City of Dover (currently working on revisions to an existing charter), the Town of Goffstown (who recently voted down a new charter), and the Town of Derry (who went the charter process fairly recently). Chairman Mahon stated he would continue working on such invitations.
There was no old business.
Andy Sylvia of 28 Merrymeeting Drive stated that Cambridge, MA has a representative form of town government.
Questions from the Press
William Mackie of the Merrimack Journal asked for the web site address (http://charter.merrimacknh.org) and what would be the last possible date for input from the public.
A motion to adjourn was made by Tim Tenhave and seconded by Fran L’Heureux. The motion carried 9-0-0. The meeting adjourned at 9:06pm.
Secretary Fran L’Heureux