PHILLIPS – A group of residents have requested to expand the Phillips select board from three to five members.
The board held their business meeting on January 24 at the Phillips Area Community Center after a public informational hearing with regards to the town-owned property at 15 Russell Street.
Chris Hardy addressed the board during public comment, speaking on behalf of a number of concerned residents about a ‘disturbing’ and ‘deteriorating’ relationship between the town’s appointed and elected officials, and members of the public.
Hardy proposed adding two board members to the current board of three, saying that the pros ‘certainly’ outweigh the cons. Hardy said that the change would accommodate the community desire for increased involvement; increase diversity; introduce more education backgrounds, more working hands, more expertise, allow for better representation, access and availability, and provide more oversight over the town manager.
“Meetings might last longer,” Hardy said, adding that he felt the community deserved more than just a time consideration. Other ‘cons’ included more opinions and more debate, and possible increased expenses for compensation of select board members, although that could be adjusted.
The majority of boards and committees in the town have five or more members, Hardy said, and few towns the size of Phillips operate with a three member board.
The proposal would have to go to a town meeting vote. For the change to take effect at the town meeting in June 2023, a special town meeting would be required at least 90 days prior to the town meeting.
Hardy asked for the board to provide a resolution that they would be moving forward on this proposal.
Selectman Larry Pinkham thought it was a good idea, saying “Five heads are better than three, usually.”
Board chair Ray Gaudette said he had no objections.
The board voted to move forward with the process of the change. Ultimately, the decision will be in the hands of the town residents.
Pinkham added that in his four years on the board, he hasn’t seen a lot of attendance at board meetings; he would love to see more people at the meetings and participating in the town business.
Residents noted that there was a significant turnout at a board meeting in late December, which Pinkham was unable to attend; he said he was in the hospital at the time. That meeting was held in the town office, which was packed full with attendees out in the entryway. Phillips Fire Chief James Gould said that the meeting should not have happened as the town office is small and the crowd far exceeded the occupancy limits. He said that this was a safety issue and it would not be allowed to happen again.
Several residents said that the evening meetings make attendance difficult, due to work schedules and family obligations; a request was made to have the minutes of the meetings posted in an accessible location such as Edmund’s Market. Another request was to have the board meetings recorded and made available for viewing so that residents could be informed on town business.
Town Manager Maureen Haley said that the minutes of the meetings could be posted on the website. In addition, there are a number of vacant positions on town committees and boards; these openings will be posted on the website as well. The website can be found at phillipsmaine.com
In addition, the board conducted an informal poll of the residents in attendance to see if they would like to see a change in the scheduling of the annual town meeting from a weeknight to a Saturday meeting. Overwhelmingly, the residents supported a Saturday morning meeting.
The board voted to hold the annual town meeting on Saturday, June 17, at 10 a.m.