Published DateCONWAY — Despite the voters' rejection of a warrant article asking in part to convene a charter commission, the selectmen on Tuesday decided to take the first steps toward reviewing the town charter.
The selectmen asked for copies of the latest version of the document, which, according to town staff, is one adopted at town meeting in 1989.
That version only has three seats on the board of selectmen, however, and it limits selectmen to two terms.
A charter commission added two seats to the select board in the early 1990s, town manager Earl Sires said, and term limits were deemed unconstitutional some time later. "We've been aware of those things but never actually amended the language of the charter."
That language is part of what needs to be changed, selectman Michael DiGregorio said at the meeting. The document needs to be fixed and updated.
The newest selectman, Stacy Sand, agreed. "Somehow we need to match the updates with the time they occurred," she said.
The town charter requires the selectmen "review and update" the charter at least every two years, something that has not occurred. The selectmen should take on that task, DiGregorio said, and "it may be less of a review than we need."
DiGregorio has talked for some time about alternative forms of town government, like a town council. To make such a change would require significant changes to the town charter.
That suggestion, however, provoked a question from selectman Crow Dickinson. Why should the selectmen do this review, he said, when the warrant article asking for a charter commission was defeated?
"By a considerable margin," he pointed out.
This examination would just be the review the charter requires, DiGregorio said. Chair David Weathers suggested the board members all get a copy so they know exactly what it says.
"We need to contact Moultonborough," Dickinson said. Moultonborough just did work on its charter.
"I don't believe this board can change the charter by even a punctuation mark," said former selectman Mark Hounsell, who was at the meeting. The real question, he said is whether Conway has outgrown its current form of government and should look at something else.
"No one's been willing to say that yet," he said.
What it takes to revising the language, however, versus revamping town government, is unclear. Sires told the selectmen he planned to speak with the town attorney to clarify what has to happen.
Hounsell, meanwhile, urged the selectmen to begin the review process.
"The time to start on this is now," he said.