Michelle Lutz: Town manager position important for local government

To the editor:

Once again a petition has been submitted to try to do away with the Town Manager form of government in Gorham. This same article appeared in 2008 and back even further in 1990. If this article passes, in effect what happens is that on the second Tuesday in April, the current (as of Election Day) board of selectmen become responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Town. They can hire a Town Administrator if they choose, which could take time, or they can choose not to. Depending on the outcome of the elections, the board could consist of two junior selectmen (Patrick LeFebvre was only elected in 2016) and one senior member, Terry Oliver. Are we confident that two junior selectmen would be in a position to run this town on a day-to-day basis? There are a lot of projects on the table that will take time for any new selectman to get up to speed on. All during this transition, the Town may not have someone in the “driver’s seat” who knows what is going on.
In 1990, when the Town was faced with the same question, the Town passed the article and the very next year a new article appeared on the warrant to go back to the Town Manager form of government. Why do you suppose that was??? Maybe because it wasn’t about the Town Manager form of government or maybe it was because running the everyday operations of the Town isn’t something that can, or should, be done part time or without knowledge of local, state and federal codes and laws.
In 2008, when this same question was on the ballot by petition, I remember reading a letter to the editor that detailed the issues faced by the board of selectmen in 1990 and how difficult it was for them to accomplish anything because of the enormous amount of time the day-to-day needs of the community required. That hasn’t changed! The only difference is the person sitting in the Town Manager’s seat and the members of the Selectboard.
There are a lot of projects in this Town that aren’t something you can work on part-time or that can be put off any longer! Roads that have had nothing done to them in many years are finally being looked into. Yes this could be costly, but we cannot turn a blind eye to it any longer and watch as our infrastructure crumbles around us. We are also facing a potential study to see if it would be viable to contract with the City of Berlin for Police & Dispatch services. This is not something that should be taken lightly and will need somebody watching over this process very closely to ensure that the Gorham residents are protected.
As we look toward our statistical update in values this fall, there is concern about the tax rate. Luckily, Robin Frost and the selectboard have successfully negotiated with the utilities and the mill to arrive at agreements that will stabilize those values well into the future. The rumor that these settlements were going to swing the tax rate by $4.00 per thousand turned out to be nothing more than rumor.
This article is not about what is best for Gorham! It wasn’t good in 1990, it wasn’t good in 2008 and it sure as heck isn’t good now! For the sake of our Town, when you go to the polls to vote, please vote yes on the article (which appears on the back side of the ballot) to keep the Town Manager plan now in force. Let’s not repeat bad history! We need to have someone in the “driver’s seat” every day who knows what they are doing!
Michelle Lutz