Wednesday December 5, 2012

BELLOWS FALLS -- The Bellows Falls Village Charter will go unchanged following a long-awaited public vote on Tuesday.

Citizens turned out at the Masonic Temple on Westminster Street between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. to vote via Australian ballot on the proposed amendments to the village charter.

According to Town Clerk Brenda Doherty, the public voted 212-69 against the revisions.

Resident Cathy Bergmann and Bellows Falls Village Trustee Deborah Wright, members of the charter revisions committee, stood outside the temple in support of the changes while Rockingham Selectboard Chairman Tom MacPhee, his brother Doug MacPhee and former Trustee Paul Obuchowski advocated for the defeat of the suggested revisions.

Voters had to choose to either adopt or reject a revised charter in its entirety. They could not pick which changes they want and which ones they don’t.

Doug MacPhee had been an opponent of the suggestions early in the process and attended both public hearings (Oct. 23 and Nov. 7) about it. Rockingham Assistant Town Clerk Brenda Doherty previously told the Reformer that state law requires the first of the two obligatory hearings to be held no fewer than 30 days before the vote is set happen. There is no deadline for the second hearing but no changes to the wording of the proposed amendments are allowed to be made within 20 days prior to the vote, she said.

Doug MacPhee submitted a request to the charter revisions committee to edit some of the proposed alterations.


Advertisement

"Those things were considered. I’m not happy that they didn’t accept them," he told the Reformer on Tuesday. "I still think the charter itself is a little too complicated -- a lot more than it has to be. I want something more simple that just reflects what the village is. There’s too many unanswered questions."

Village resident Alan Fowler also opposed the suggested changes. Though he believes the charter may need some tuning up, he disliked the way the revisions committee members conducted themselves.

"A lot of (my opposition) is because I don’t like the people who are pushing it and they’re very abusive and bullying toward the general public -- the way their actions are in the public meetings that they go to," he said on the sidewalk after casting his vote. "I’m really turned off by that because the charter works the way it is."

A young woman who asked not to be identified said she had no problem with the proposed amendments.

"I’ve only lived here for four years, so I’m not a life-long resident, but it didn’t seem like they wanted to change that much," she said, adding that she grew up in Long Island. "I watched the meetings (on TV) and I’ve seen the back-and-forth. I didn’t see a big deal about the changes."

Tom MacPhee was at the first public hearing and objected to the possibility of eliminating the manager’s position.

"There were a couple of people who (drafted the revisions) and it seems to us that they were pushing a personal agenda by increasing the power of the trustees," he previously told the Reformer.

Wright clarified that state statute has always allowed voters to vote to scrap the municipal manager form of government. She said the committee simply wants the village charter to provide a definition for what she considers the most important job in municipal government, which she said the current one does not do.

Wright said increasing the power of the trustees was never the intention of the committee.

Domenic Poli can be reached at dpoli@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277.