Town Meeting Members Needed

by | Jul 1, 2014

Town Clerk 2 for 5 Filling Vacancies

By John Anderson

There are few things more important to successful local government than town meetings. This is the place where budgets are approved, where capital items like fire engines, police cruisers, and highway trucks get the nod, and where citizens get to voice their opinions about important matters.

Two things have greatly improved Auburn’s town meetings, the use of a capital improvement plan (CIP) and having elected town meeting members. There are 120 elected members, 24 from each of five precincts, and they are the only voters at the annual and special town meetings. The CIP keeps the meetings short because there is rarely long and emotional debate about an expenditure. Added to this, Auburn’s Town Manager, Chief Financial Officer, School Superintendent, School Committee, Board of Selectmen, and stellar Finance Committee come in prepared with facts that move things along.

The average commitment is less than ten hours a year. And yet, it is rare that citizens run for all the open positions. A quorum of 80 is required to start a town meeting, and in the past, it was not unusual to sit in the AHS auditorium for 45 minutes waiting for members to arrive. When Town Clerk Ellen Gaboury started to publish the names of those who did not show up, attendance improved. Still, there are a few who sign in but don’t stay for the entire meeting, potentially eliminating the quorum.

Last night, Precincts 3, 4, and 5 had scheduled meetings to elect nominated individuals to fill open seats. The voters were already elected town meeting members, and a quorum of 13 was required for a vote. Precincts 3 and 5 did not have enough attendees to reach that quorum, so the one 3-year seat in each precinct remains unfilled.

Precinct 4 reached a quorum and elected two 3-year term candidates who were in attendance. A single 1-year candidate to fill an unexpired vacancy is still open. Next Monday, Precincts 1 and 2 will have their opportunity to elect a 3-year term member from each. It should be noted that these positions are elected and cannot be appointed. Last night was 2 for 5 positions, and hopefully, next Monday will produce better results.