Article to Dissolve Falmouth Board of Selectmen Passed on to Town Meeting

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By: Brent Runyon
Published: 10/08/10

Falmouth Board of Selectmen broke a long-standing policy Monday and voted unanimously to support a petitioner’s article at the November Town Meeting.

That article calls for the establishment of a charter commission to develop an improved form of government for the town, which could result in the dissolution of the board of selectmen and the office of the town manager, and the creation of the position of mayor.

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“The town of Falmouth is a $100 million-a-year operation and the present form of governing the finances, manpower, and operations needs restructuring,” read William M. McDermott of Queen Street, Falmouth, a supporter of the article.

“Government by committees and the lack of a central leader has resulted in many citizens becoming disillusioned with the present form of government.”

Mr. McDermott cited the recent replacement of gas lines on Gifford Street, in which National Grid workers dug up pavement that was laid only three months ago. “That was terrible management,” he said.

The article calls for Town Meeting to establish a charter commission, which would develop an improved form of government.

But a charter commission is not established by Town Meeting. That process requires a petition signed by 15 percent of town residents, and a ballot question, a process that would not be completed until 2012, Mr. McDermott said.

Selectman Mary (Pat) Flynn said she would be in favor of the establishment of a charter commission.

“I think it’s been 20 years since we looked at the town charter and I think it would be a very helpful discussion,” she said.

Chairman Brent V.W. Putnam said he was in favor of supporting the petitioner’s article, because it is simply a proclamation. “Quite honestly, it has no teeth,” he said.

Selectman Melissa C. Freitag said that the selectmen have long withheld their support of petitioner’s articles, and should maintain the same policy with this article.

But Mr. Putnam recommending supporting the article if they tweaked the language to read Town Meeting could “support the establishment” of the charter commission.

With that change, selectmen unanimously voted to recommend the article to Town Meeting.


Another petitioner's article fails

The other petitioner’s article on the Town Meeting warrant is from the residents of Siders Pond Road, who have complained for years that their water is brown and rust-colored, and asks town government to appropriate money to replace the pipes and re-pave the street.

Richard C. Foster, a resident of Siders Pond Road, told selectmen that the water pipes coming to the street are made of unlined cast iron and produce brown water, especially in the winter when there are fewer residents living on the street.

He said he met with the water superintendent and was told the town had already engineered the plans, had the supplies to replace the pipes, and the project was shovel ready.

Water Superintendent William R. Chapman said there are several areas in town that have the same problem, but Siders Pond is very noticeable because the volume of water that passes through the pipes is less than on Main Street, where the pipes are even older. He said it is not true that the town has enough pipe on hand to do the project.

Ms. Flynn asked how many homes are served by the water main on Siders Pond Road, and how much it would cost to replace the pipes.

There are 39 homes on the road, and the project would cost $256,000, Mr. Chapman said, although he said he thought he could get the price down to $250,000.

Mr. Chapman said there are 30 other projects throughout the town that he would like to do, some that are more urgent than Siders Pond Road. Currently, the town bleeds the water out of the pipe via fire hydrants to clear the line of rust and sediment.

Mr. Putnam said that he was reluctant to support an article when there are so many other necessary projects.

But Selectman Ahmed A. Mustafa said that the town should support the citizens of Siders Pond Road. “The only thing I say is that we owe these citizens,” he said.

Mr. Chapman said he had sympathy for the residents of Siders Pond Road, but there was no money for the project.

“Sympathy is not going to cut it when it comes to brown or rusty water,” Mr. Mustafa said.

The board voted four to one to recommend indefinite postponement for the article. Mr. Mustafa was the only selectman to support the petitioner’s article.

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