Town of Middleton
Board of Selectmen
Nathan Media Center
Fuller Meadow School, Middleton MA
December 7, 2010 - 7:30 p.m.
Present: Christine Lindberg - Chair, Kosta Prentakis, Nancy Jones, Timothy Houten
Not Present: Brian Cresta
Other Officials Present: Ira Singer - Town Administrator
Review of Middleton Town Charter
Discussion began at approximately 8:20 p.m.
Prentakis began with a possible substantive change regarding continuing Open Town Meeting vs. Town Administrator vs. Town Manager representing the people.
Lindberg believes there is a range required of 10-25,000 residents to allow a Representative Town Meeting format.
Singer responded that if there is a threshold, it may be met. He mentioned the census coming out in the near future and he will look into the matter further.
Lindberg doesn’t see any problem with the way the Town Government is working now and doesn’t feel a change is necessary.
Jones mentioned the build-out at 14,000 residents should be a big consideration. It keeps Middleton at the small end of community sizes. Jones supports and enjoys that any citizen can become a part of the Open Town Meeting. She added that it would be a sad day if a resident had to go to a Town Administrator rather than voice their opinions at a Town Meeting.
Prentakis went over the average numbers at a typical Town Meeting which has been approximately 150 -225, with the exception of the matter of the Howe Manning School. Prentakis gave a review of that meeting stating that over 800 appeared with 600 of those 800 residents appearing because they wanted to vote on the school. However, because there were other matters on the agenda, people also voted on other issues that they may not have typically voted on. Prentakis said that it became a negative when people came out in large numbers to vote on their interest however also voted on other issues that they may not have been well educated on. Prentakis gave the example with the Adult Entertainment District Bylaw. Prentakis said that he is not advocating to switch to a Town Administrator
Representative style, however , he believes that an Open Town Meeting can pose a possible issue in the future for the reasons he described.
Jones agreed that there is an element of frustration when people come out to vote and then leave or vote on matters that they are not fully educated on. However, she feels that it is up to the people how they want to conduct their town government. Jones believes that making a change on the whole form of government is not in the best interest for the Town.
Houten agreed and felt that there are no grounds to change the managerial style of the Town. Houten added that an Open Town Meeting has been a nice aspect of living in a small town and the BOS should only focus on things that are not working within the government of Middleton.
Singer advised the BOS that Chapter 2, Section 2.2.2 had been changed since the adoption of the Charter in 1981. After much discussion and debate, an amendment was proposed to bring the number required for a quorum at Town meeting from 200 to 100 people. Both Singer and Lindberg mentioned that there was discussion at that time to bring the number to 0 however 100 was a more comfortable number.
Singer mentioned that there are approximately 8,300 residents of which 5,200 are registered voters. Relative to size, Singer said that Open Town Meetings in other towns have been successful.
Prentakis noted that the percentage of participation at Town Meeting is going down and the population is growing. Prentakis hopes that the new setting at Howe Manning School could entice more people to attend.
Singer responded that with proposition 2 ½, the final vote is the ballot vote for an override. The Charter was not set up with Proposition 2 ½ in mind. Town people can be utilizing the final ballot vote rather than feeling the need to show up at the Town Meeting.
Singer continued on to Chapter 3, Section 3.1.1 - adding that it gives the opportunity to flip the timeframe and have Elections held before the Town Meeting. Lindberg responded that she does not agree and gave reasons for her comment.
Singer mentioned that there is frustration with no clear mechanism of informing the voters on advantages and disadvantages on the physical election ballot. Because it is governed by Statute, the Town can’t manipulate or put any substantive information on the ballot. Open Town Meeting allows for good discussion on matters before the Election Ballot vote is presented.
Singer reminded the Board of the timeframe for any substantive vs. procedural changes.
Lindberg began from the beginning of the Charter for discussing and overview purposes.
Chapter 1: Powers of the Town - not an issue of consideration at this time.
Chapter 2: Lindberg mentioned Section 2.4.5 with respect to mailing copies of Warrants to all residents which is costly and becomes a Green issue.
Singer responded that the language stated is general enough to provide flexibility on the way Warrants can be made available to the public. Singer said that the problem with electronic conveyance it will not reach every household. In addition, the mailing usually contains other information with respect to Town Government.
Lindberg said that it may be a good idea to poll voters at Town Meeting about the matter.
Prentakis made a suggestion of possibly mailing a postcard noting that a Warrant is available online as well as other locations such as the Town Library and Town Clerks Office however he feels the mailing cost overall is not a significant amount of money.
Chapter 2: Section 2.4.9 – Singer raised the consideration of adding a separate clause to the Charter with respect to a permanent election of the Master Plan Committee (MPC). There is language that has been added to the Town Bylaw stating that before articles are voted on, they are considered by the MPC. It also mentions a requirement that Finance Committee make recommendations as well.
The BOS discussed the matter briefly and will give more thought to adding a separate clause to the Charter.
Chapter 2: Section 2.4.10 – Singer said that this section should have been taken out a long time ago because it is contradictory between Section 2.4.11 and Section 3.9.10. Singer explained why.
At this time, Lindberg tabled the discussion to a future meeting, stopping at Chapter 2: Section 2.4.13. Lindberg said that she will have Board Member Cresta review the Chapters in the Charter discussed this evening.
Lindberg continued to the next agenda item at approximately 8:43 p.m.
Brian Cresta, Clerk