BELLOWS FALLS -- Residents had a final opportunity Wednesday to voice concerns about proposed changes to the village charter and the final copy of the document is set to be available to the public next week.
Bellows Falls Village Trustee Deborah Wright, head of the charter revisions committee, said the public turnout was very low but the committee will take comments into consideration one more time before handing the document over to Ray Massucco, who acts as the village attorney.
Wright said the final version of the charter and the proposed changes will be available online and at the Rockingham Town Hall by Wednesday.
Citizens will vote to adopt or reject a revised version of the charter on Tuesday, Dec. 4. Voting is scheduled to take place from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Masonic Temple on Westminster Street.
Wednesday was the second of two mandatory public hearings regarding the suggested changes. The previous one was held on Tuesday, Oct. 23.
Resident Doug MacPhee attended both public hearings and submitted a request to the charter revisions committee to edit some of the proposed alterations. He said the committee agreed to accommodate some of his requested tweaks.
MacPhee said he will wait to see the final proposed document before deciding whether or not to vote for it. He said he definitely would not have voted for the changes before his requests were accommodated.
Voters must choose to either adopt or reject a revised charter in its entirety. They will not be allowed to pick which changes they want and which ones they don't. The proposed changes include an update on statutory expenses, clarification with respect to acquisition of interests in real estate, expansion on the restrictions on the use of Minard's Pond and defines the role of the municipal manager.
Tom MacPhee, Doug's brother, 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 just 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.
Rockingham Assistant Town Clerk Brenda Doherty previously said 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.
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277.