New charter addresses nepotism and appointments

By Mike Lange
Staff Writer

    DEXTER — In addition to making choices for state and local offices, Dexter residents will also have an opportunity to vote on a new town charter at the November general election.
    Town Manager Shelley Watson outlined some of the recommended changes at last week’s town council meeting which include clarifications on eligibility to hold office and appointments of department heads.

    Newly-elected or reelected town council members would begin their terms on Dec. 1 instead of Jan. 1, if the charter is approved; and department heads would serve “indefinitely, instead of being appointed repetitiously every year,” Watson said.
    The town manager, by law, appoints the assistant town manager, town clerk, treasurer, tax collector, recreation director and other department supervisors subject to approval by the town council.
    The Charter Commission, which met several times over the summer, also recommended the elimination of the Personnel Advisory Board “because we haven’t had any members on it,” Watson explained.
    The proposed new charter also reaffirms the policy that “no person may serve as a member of the council when an immediate family member (spouse, parents, children, brothers and sisters) are employed by the town, unless said employee resigns that employment.”
    The newly-revised charter will be posted on the town’s website this week, and copies of the 21-page document will be available at the town office and at the polls.
    Voters will also have new booths on Election Day, thanks to a last-minute addition to the Sept. 11 agenda. The council approved the transfer of up to $4,200 from the town clerk’s reserve account to purchase four new voting booths.
    Town Clerk Kim Hughes explained that the new booths with four stations each are made from aircraft-type metal and fold up easily for storage. The current booths, which take up to three hours to set up, are close to 40 years old “and are in pretty rough shape … they’ve timed out,” Hughes said.
    The original request was for $3,554 which didn’t include curtains for the booths. But some councilors said they had privacy concerns and amended the motion to read “not more than $4,200.”
    The town council fielded more complaints about road conditions at the meeting as Ben Wallace of the Old Dover Road produced a box filled with large stones and some sharp-edged smaller rocks that he said were ruining his vehicles.
    Wallace said that when he bought his home, the road was asphalt but later it was “ground up and turned into a dirt road.” He charged that the road was graded “once or twice a year, but never raked” and the dust is so bad that his neighbors “can’t even open their windows during the summer to let any fresh air in.”
    Watson said that she took a ride on Old Dover Road and said that she didn’t think “it was all that bad,” but noted that they will be taking up an ordinance next month to borrow $750,000 for road repairs in the community.
    For the second meeting in a row, there were no bids submitted for a tax-acquired vacant restaurant on Main Street. The original valuation was around $90,000, but the actual value was estimated to be in the $40,000-$45,000 range. Councilors directed Watson to advertise the property once again and see if there are any takers by the Oct. 9 council meeting.

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