Proposed charter changes on Athol Town Election ballot

Recorder Staff/Domenic Poli  Athol Town Hall.

Recorder Staff/Domenic Poli Athol Town Hall.

By Greg Vine

For the Athol Daily News

Published: 03-29-2024 5:09 PM

ATHOL – In addition to the race for the Athol Royalston Regional School Committee and a $286,000 Proposition 2 ½ override to decide, voters at Monday’s Annual Town Election are being asked to approve 31 changes to the Town Charter.

Instead of voting on each proposed change separately, voters must decide whether they want to approve the changes in total. These were previously endorsed at Town Meeting, but approval via ballot is required before they can be enacted.

One proposal calls for the elimination of the citizen-driven referendum. This section of the charter provides a means for overturning by ballot any warrant article approved by voters at Town Meeting. To get a referendum question placed before the voters, supporters need to collect, within 10 days of the Town Meeting in question, no fewer than 5% of the number of registered voters. Currently, that would amount to over 400 signatures.

According to Town Clerk Nancy Burnham, only one referendum has made it to the ballot in the past 24 years, which called for the repeal of a zoning change approved by Town Meeting. The challenge, Burnham said, was ultimately defeated at the polls.

Another proposed charter change would eliminate the residency requirement for both the town manager and the town clerk. Instead of having to reside in Athol, these officials would both be required, within six months of being appointed, to find a residence within 25 miles of Athol “and be able to fulfill duties in a timely manner within one year.”

Other proposed changes include officially changing the name of the town’s governing body from “Board of Selectmen” to “Select Board,” eliminating the requirement for a fall Town Meeting, and doing away with the requirement that Town Meeting warrants be published “in a newspaper of general circulation” and instead requiring it to be posted on the town’s web site.

Anyone objecting to any single amendment will need to vote to reject the entire package to prevent it from being enacted.

The annual town election is Monday, April 1. Polls at Town Hall, 584 Main St., will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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