City councilors consider changes to the charter for the first time in 30 years

10 months ago

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — The city has not amended its charter in 30 years, but the council will review a list of proposed changes when it meets again on Sept. 6.

Changes were last voted on in the mid-1990s. 

On Wednesday, Aug. 2, councilors and City Manager Martin Puckett went over proposed changes that included handling of the money set aside for a rainy day fund, making warden and warden clerk positions appointed rather than elected, rules surrounding a tie vote and changing the council chairperson’s title to mayor.

“Presque Isle is unique in our position in how the charter makes us set aside money for a rainy day fund that has to be voted on by the entirety of the council in order to access the money in the fund,” said councilor Craig Green.

The city council wants some flexibility about putting money into the fund, since the city also has surplus in addition to the rainy day fund. Puckett suggested capping the fund at $2.8 million, which is its current balance, but councilors Doug Cyr and Mike Chasse didn’t think it would be a good idea.

About $100,000 is put aside each year for the rainy day fund, but it takes a unanimous council vote to put money into the fund. The City Council tabled making changes to the amount of money put aside for that fund and the number of votes needed to take money out and use it until the Sept. 6 meeting.

As for voting procedures by the councilors, the current city charter language doesn’t allow any exceptions for in-person votes. It does not allow using Zoom or voting over the phone.

Any proposed changes, or amendments, to the city charter must be run by the city’s legal counsel, then voted on by the council in September, Puckett said. The public would vote on them in November.

A charter commission would be appointed to review any revisions and amendments made to the city charter as dictated by Maine law.

City Manager Puckett will draft the proposals for the changes to the charter before the September council meeting.

In other business, two seats on the city council will be open for the November election. Nomination papers to run for the council are available at Kim Finnamore’s office at City Hall. Candidates must obtain 75 valid signatures before the Sept. 8 deadline.

The city councilors discussed possibly lowering the number of signatures needed in order to be on the ballot for the November election.

In other business, councilors voted on the revisions made to the employee handbook in regards to grammatical and formatting issues as presented by the city manager. The hiring process was reduced from 25 to 15 steps to make applying for city employment a quicker process.

No deadline is set for reviewing the employee handbook for the Presque Isle municipal government, which was last updated in 2013, Puckett said.

After a brief discussion on the employee handbook updates, councilors voted 4-1 to table any changes until the next city council meeting. Councilor Chasse was the only opposing vote.