(Editor's Note: At 2 p.m., we added new documents relating to the proposed charter changes, provided by SACC Chairman Scott Wilson. These include the most recent version of the proposed charter, an index and a sheet comparing the existing charter with the proposed new document.)
By a 3-2 vote, the Board of Selectmen approved a motion to schedule a pair of public hearings to discuss the changes to the Town Charter being proposed by the Special Act Charter Committee (SACC).
The hearings are scheduled for Jan. 31 and Feb. 7 at 7 p.m. at Town Hall. The hearings will be broadcast on public access television.
Selectmen Doug Sears and David Gay, who have been steadfast in their opposition to abandoning the Open Town Meeting form of government in favor of the 9-member Town Council proposed by the SACC, voted against setting the hearing dates, with Sears saying there was no need to rush the process.
Sears also said he did not feel the SACC had provided enough information regarding the proposed changes for citizens to look at prior to the hearings.
"I think we should table the proposal until sufficient documentation is provided," he said. Specifically, Sears wants to a see a side-by-side comparison of the existing charter and areas of proposed change.
In an interview following the meeting, Sears also said he was bothered by the fact that the issue of setting hearing dates regarding the charter changes was not on the Selectmen's agenda. Rather, the issue was raised during the "committee reports" by Selectman Scott Wilson, who also chairs the SACC.
"I'd been waiting to see it added to the agenda all week," said Sears.
Wilson countered that he feels there is plenty of information available to the public, including a five-page report outlining proposed changes. He said all of the documents are available on the committee web page. (Documents can be accessed by clicking here.)
Supporting the motion to set the hearing dates were Wilson, Board Chairman Todd Johnson and Selectwoman Anne-Marie Stronach. Stronach has proven to be a swing vote on recent votes having to do with the charter. She had sided with Sears and Gay six weeks ago in voting down a motion to schedule a Special Town Meeting on the proposed charter changes.
Stronach has been consistent in her desire to give residents the chance to speak in a public setting and share their questions and concerns regarding the proposed changes.
"Six weeks ago we voted to scheduled public hearings," she said. "I think we need to (actually) schedule them. We need to hear what people have to say."
Stronach also said that since it will be the Board of Selectmen hosting the hearings, she will work with Wilson to put together easy-to-read handouts and information packages that will be made available to the public at the Public Library, Senior Center and Town Hall. In addition, the information will be online and will be made available prior to the public hearing.