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Hearing set on new Ferrisburgh charter

FERRISBURGH — The first of two public hearings on Ferrisburgh’s proposed town charter, which would be the town’s first, will be held this coming Monday, April 10, at 6:30 p.m. in Ferrisburgh’s Route 7 town office building. A second hearing will be held in town hall exactly a week later, at 6:30 p.m. on April 17.  
The Ferrisburgh selectboard has set a May 11 town-wide vote for residents to decide whether to adopt a document that would change the town clerk’s and treasurer’s positions from elected posts to positions filled by selectboard appointment.
Residents discussed the charter with selectboard members at town meeting, and Board Chairwoman Loretta Lawrence said afterward feedback was generally positive.  
The two-page charter includes basic language giving the town the right to “continue to be a municipal corporation” with “all the powers granted to towns and municipal corporations by the Constitution and laws of the State … together with all implied powers necessary to carry into execution all the powers granted,” including to “enact ordinances” consistent with the Vermont Constitution.
Most of the rest of the document — written by the town attorney after reviewing other town charters — deals with the selectboard’s right to appoint the town clerk and treasurer, set their hours and pay, and write their job descriptions. It also states candidates for the two positions do not have to live in Ferrisburgh.
The proposed charter is brief in describing duties for the clerk and treasurer.
The driver behind the selectboard’s decision to propose the charter was dissatisfaction with the performance of the town’s former treasurer and board members’ inability to enforce what they said were needed changes when the treasurer did not answer to them, but rather to voters.
About a dozen other Vermont towns — including Vergennes, Stowe, Springfield and Berlin, as well as a number of larger communities, mostly cities — also appoint clerks and/or treasurers. Locally, Panton changed its charter in 2014 to make the treasurer and clerk appointed positions, and Panton selectboard members have said the move has worked well.
If residents back the charter change on May 11 in Australian balloting, it would still need approval from the Legislature to take effect.
The board in February chose Sept. 5 as the date the board would gain the powers outlined in the charter to appoint Ferrisburgh’s town clerk and treasurer. But it appears unlikely the Legislature will still be in session to act on the charter, and the earliest it could take effect if voters support it would be early next year. 

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