AUGUST 16, 2005
Commission members present: Chairman Tom Mahon, Vice Chairman
Heather Anderson, Secretary Fran L’Heureux, Peter Batula, Robert Kelley, Finlay
Rothhaus, Tim Tenhave, Lon Woods, and David Yakuboff.
Chairman Mahon convened the
meeting of the Charter Commission at 7:02 pm in the Conference Room of the Town
Chairman Mahon introduced Rita
Carlton, the new recording secretary to the Commission members.
Chairman Mahon announced the
public hearing date scheduled for Tuesday, September 13, 2005. He also announced that members of the Town’s
elected boards are invited to the August 23 meeting. This week, the Commission will meet with members of the
Town’s appointed boards so that they may provide pros and cons of the Town’s
current form of government, as well as their input about what form of
government Merrimack should operate under.
There was no public comment.
Chairman – The
Chairman indicated he had spoken with the Chairman of the Board of Selectmen
and the Town Manager regarding a budget for the Commission. Both of these gentlemen have indicated
that they will support expenditures of the Charter Commission within
reason. Chairman Mahon stated that
he estimates that the maximum cost for the work of the Charter Commission will
Vice Chairman – Vice Chairman Anderson noted that the Commission’s website is
current. She suggested that anyone
interested in the work of the Commission should subscribe to the Charter’s list
serve through it’s website.
Introduction of and Dialogue with Guests: Cable TV
Advisory Committee, Planning Board, & Zoning Board of Adjustment
Chairman Mahon thanked all
of the members of the committees and boards present. He noted to all present that the Commission is looking for advice
regarding appointed boards and whether these boards should be elected rather
than appointed. He noted the
Commission is looking for the personal opinions of the appointed members rather
than an opinion of the body.
Planning Board Chairman Nelson
Disco noted that a majority of the Planning Board is present at this meeting
and the meeting of the Planning Board was posted for this time and place.
Mr. Disco noted that it is
his personal opinion that the appointed method of obtaining members for the
Planning Board has worked well and this appointed Planning Board has served the
Town of Merrimack well. He noted
that this appointment process has helped to make the process continuous by
having members who have learned the law associated with planning and how to
read and deal with plans. He noted
that some people who are willing to serve would not be willing to go through
the election process. He noted he
hopes that the appointment of members to the Planning Board will continue.
Mr. Disco further noted that
any change or addition to the Town’s zoning law is currently voted on by the people;
therefore the zoning law is in the hands of the people. Mr. Disco noted that as the town gets
toward build out there will be more pressure to change land use
regulations. He noted that the
current process may make changes in reaction to what is happening but it allows
the public to get the information needed to make an informed decision, rather
than a decision based upon an emotional reaction.
Tim Tenhave noted that he
has heard that the voting at the Annual Meeting does not react quickly
enough. He asked for Mr. Disco’s
comments on this. Mr. Disco noted
that if quicker reaction is needed, then there is a need to change the
process. Mr. Tenhave questioned
whether the electorate is educated enough. Mr. Disco noted that the electorate depends on the Planning
Board a great deal. The electorate
is more educated on the larger issues regarding what they want.
Heather Anderson questioned
whether voting by the people is an impediment to economic development. Mr. Disco noted he could envision that
voting could be an impediment.
Peter Batula questioned how
important the Planning Board will be at build out. Mr. Disco noted there would be continued pressure to
continue to build and to change the land use. He noted that build out is a theoretical point that is never
Tom Mahon questioned whether
businesses which move into town talk about the government or what needs to be
done. Mr. Disco noted that most of
this talk takes place at the Community Development Department’s office and with
the Town Manager.
Planning Board Member John
Segedy urged that the government be made as transparent as possible to the public. This transparency will allow for
divergent points of view to be heard.
He noted that the Commission should be aware not to put the government
too much in the hands of “experts”.
He noted that some “experts” have been educated by those with their own
agenda, which may be at odds with the desires/wishes of the people.
Planning Board and Zoning
Board of Adjustment Member Stanley Bonislawski noted that he is coming up on
three years with the Planning Board and feels he is just learning what is to be
done. He noted he is in favor of
David Yakuboff questioned
whether fewer people would be involved if these were elected offices. Mr. Bonislawski noted that he would
probably not run for a position on an elected board. He noted that volunteer boards are comprised of people who
want to be there. He noted there
are many good people who do not want to be involved in the election process.
Planning Board Member Alaistair
Millns noted he strongly supports appointments to the Planning Board. He noted he is happy to serve and feels it
is a privilege to help the Planning Board and the town. He noted there is not an overwhelming
volume of people waiting to serve.
Zoning Board of Adjustment
Member Tim Dutton noted he would agree with members of the Planning Board
regarding the continued appointment of members to the currently appointed
Heather Anderson asked whether
voting on zoning changes by the electorate versus boards with this authority is
an impediment to economic development.
Mr. Dutton noted he does not feel that this is an impediment. He noted that if such decisions were
rushed, all of the facts may not be available. He noted that such decisions should be made by the
electorate, not an elected board.
Zoning Board of Adjustment
Member Bill Barry noted that volunteer members of the Planning Board and Zoning
Board of Adjustment should be appointed.
He noted that the process for appointment includes an interview by a two
members of the Board of Selectmen along with the chairman of the respective
land use board. He noted there are
no politics involved in the Planning Board or Zoning Board of Adjustment. The members want to be on these boards. He feels that these appointed boards
are not an impediment to development.
There has been some very heated discussion, along with various opinions
at Zoning Board of Adjustment meetings.
He noted that the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Adjustment are
elected only in major cities. He
noted that members can be removed by the board which appointed them.
Peter Batula questioned
whether Mr. Barry could envision electing someone who doesn’t want to be on the
board. Mr. Barry noted someone
could see such as election as a political stepping stone. He noted that an election would
eliminate many of those currently serving.
Zoning Board of Adjustment
Member Ross Hall suggested that an election of members should be based on the
four villages of Merrimack plus one member at large. He feels strongly that the members of the Planning Board and
Zoning Board of Adjustment should be elected. If the members are to be appointed, then a time frame for
appointment should be considered. He
noted that Merrimack is basically a bedroom community and that most of the
electorate votes on zoning changes based upon the recommendations of the
Finlay Rothhaus noted that an
elected board can be very political and that a political board could cause the
breaking of laws. Mr. Rothhaus
noted that elections are not just name recognition, but are also based on the
electorate’s trust in the candidate’s past decisions.
Planning Board Member Pete
Gagnon noted that he has served with the town since the 1970s. He became involved through a desire to
be involved with the town and the townspeople. He noted that even if individuals have an agenda, they are
able to work as a group in public sessions. He noted that state law structures how zoning amendments are
to be made. He noted it is
important that people who serve are encouraged to serve. It is important that the electorate has
a say. The methodology of allowing
groups to work together and giving the electorate a say should be maintained
whether the members of the boards are elected or appointed.
Cable TV Advisory Committee
Chairman Rich Morrissey noted it is important to keep the appointed
committees. He noted the town may
not get a lot of interest in people running for the Cable TV Advisory
Heather Anderson noted that
the Cable TV Advisory Committee often has to ask the Board of Selectmen to meet
in a special session at the last minute due regulatory timeframes. Vice Chairman Anderson asked Mr.
Morrissey if there was a better, more efficient way to meet the timeframes? Mr. Morrissey agreed that there are
times when the Cable TV Advisory Committee is required to respond is a short
timeframe and suggested that it would be better if the Cable TV Advisory
Committee could be the franchising authority. Ms. Anderson noted this cannot be done under current state
law; however, understand that the ability to be reactive is important to this
committee. Mr. Morrissey noted
that if this committee was more independent, it would be a better use of the
Board of Selectmen’s time.
Tim Tenhave noted that the
current Board of Selectmen has stated that they are reluctant to give more
power to appointed boards. Mr.
Morrissey noted that he can see this point, but it may not be possible to fill
all of the positions via elections.
Finlay Rothhaus noted that
members of the Cable TV Advisory Committee are well versed in their field. This is a plus for the committee and
the town. There is a major problem
with appointed boards having too much power. Ms. Anderson noted that the cable regulations are created on
the federal level. She noted that
these regulations must be well understood by members of the committee. Lon Woods suggested that the town be
patient since cable TV is relatively recent, but land use issues are not new to
the Planning Board.
Tom Mahon thanked all those
who came before the Commission for their frank input and opinions. The Commission appreciates this input
and these opinions.
Chairman Mahon noted again that
the Chairman of the Board of Selectmen and the Town Manager have given their
consent for the anticipated expenses as described by Chairman Mahon for tending
to the duties of the Charter Commission.
He directed the Commissioners to the spreadsheet analysis of the
responses received from the four attorneys who responded to the Commission’s
inquiry for services. Chairman
Mahon stated that all of these attorneys are well qualified. He recommended that the Commission
accept the proposal of Attorney Krans of Dover.
A motion was made by Tim
Tenhave and seconded by Finlay Rothhaus to accept the recommendation of
Chairman Mahon and accept the proposal of Attorney Krans. The motion passed 9-0-0.
Fran L’Heureux questioned
how often the Commission will need to meet with the attorney. Chairman Mahon stated that the attorney
would not attend every meeting, but may attend some of the public
hearings. He plans on conducting all
communication with the attorney in writing, not via telephone calls, so that he
can share the context of those discussions with the full Commission. He noted that the range for the cost of
the attorney should be between $7,500 and $12,000. The Commission will have questions about how things can be
done legally. Mr. Mahon noted he
wants the attorney present for the public hearing in November.
Sub-Committee Report Presentations
David Yakuboff noted that
the subcommittee looking at city forms of government consisted of David
Yakuboff, Heather Anderson, and Peter Batula. The subcommittee presented two different city approaches: major/alderman and city manager/city
council. The subcommittee
presented the requirements and abilities of both types of government. There are public hearings involved in
the budget processes in both of these types of government.
Finlay Rothhaus noted that
the subcommittee looking at town forms of government consisted of Finlay
Rothhaus, Fran L’Heureux, and Lon Woods.
The subcommittee presented four different town approaches: council/administrator, council or
selectmen with budgetary town meeting, council or selectmen with official
ballot town meeting, and the representative town meeting. Mr. Rothhaus noted that due to a
mis-communication, they had only hard copy reports for the
council/administrator and the council or selectmen with budgetary town
meeting. The council/administrator
form involves a council of up to 15 members plus a town administrator. The council or selectmen with budgetary
town meeting form involves a town council plus a ballot for the budget. Very similar to that form is the
council or selectmen with official ballot form. Any lastly, there is the representative town meeting
form. Lon Woods noted that there
is a lot of latitude for determining the charter in any of these forms.
Tom Mahon noted that the
subcommittee looking at current form of Town government consisted of himself,
Bob Kelley, and Tim Tenhave.
Chairman Mahon went through the areas of the template citing all of the
relevant statutes and whether it was covered in the Administrative Code. Tim Tenhave shared a lengthy
presentation on the Administrative Code and the discrepancies between the Administrative
Code and how the Town presents itself on the Town’s web site and its annual
Tom Mahon noted that the
purpose of this work by the subcommittees is to give the Commission a framework
for understanding as they go forward.
Heather Anderson noted the
great job done by all the members of the subcommittees. She noted that all of the information
given to members of the Commission will be made available on the website once
she receives it electronically.
Mr. Mahon noted he
envisioned putting together a summary of the summaries. This will give the members of the
Commission and people who access the website the ability to compare the forms
at a glance.
Discuss Possible Modification of Commission
Chairman Mahon suggested
that any votes should have a supermajority of 6 affirmative votes to pass. He also suggested that any motions to
be made should be prepared in writing to give the other members an
understanding of the motion and to give the recording secretary the correct
wording of the motion. This will
help to frame the issue more clearly and to provide more structure and
clarity. Peter Batula remarked
that he did not see a current need for written motions and suggested that this
issue be visited at a later date.
Finlay Rothhaus noted that if a motion is preplanned it should be in
writing. He noted this may not be
needed as an absolute procedure.
A motion was made by Peter
Batula and seconded by Robert Kelley to require that a supermajority vote of 6 be
needed to pass any motion made by the Charter Commission.
An amendment was made by Tim
Tenhave and seconded by David Yakuboff to require that a majority plus one vote
of members in attendance and voting be needed to pass any motion made by the
Charter Commission. The amendment
The amended motion passed
There was no other business discussed.
Questions from the Press
Nashua Telegraph Report Patrick
Meighan questioned whether the supermajority is needed for all votes or only
for votes regarding the change in form.
Chairman Mahon noted that this would be needed for votes associated with
developing something. Mr. Meighan
questioned the number of attorney proposals received. Chairman Mahon noted that four proposals were received and
the Commission recommended that the services of Attorney Krans of Dover be
used. Mr. Meighan questioned
whether there is a cap on the spending of the Commission. Chairman Mahon stated that the numbers
given are a goal, not a cap.
Merrimack Journal Report
William Mackie asked which of the forms of town government that were not reported
on during the meeting. Finlay
Rothhaus stated that all town forms were reported, but two were not presented
in hard copy. These forms were the
representative and the official ballot forms.
Finlay Rothhaus questioned a
clarifying question regarding how the Commission will communicate with the
attorney. Tom Mahon noted that all
questions to the attorney should be in writing and that the Commission will
need a majority plus one vote to send a question to the attorney.
Comments from the Commission
Tom Mahon noted that he has invited
the Board of Selectmen to appear at 8:00 pm at the next meeting.
A motion was made by Heather
Anderson and seconded by Robert Kelley to table the minutes of August 9, 2005
until the next meeting of the Commission.
The motion passed 9-0-0.
A motion was made by Lon
Woods and seconded by Tim Tenhave to adjourn the meeting at 9:55 pm. The motion passed 9-0-0.
Rita Carlton, Recording