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From the Desk of
Town Commissioner Chris Staiger

(9/11) September means that summer is coming to an end, vacations are over, and the new school year has begun. I’m glad the hot spells are mostly over and we are finally starting to get some rain! Of course, September is also election time in town and I can let you know that I will be running for my third term as commissioner. I would be honored to have your consideration and support! Over the last six and a half years, I believe I have been able to provide strong leadership that has greatly reduced conflict among Board members by establishing an organized structure giving everyone (including the public) a fair voice in the meeting process. This has allowed me to foster a growing independence that has moved the Board from a rubber stamp for administration and staff polices to a force capable of initiating and implementing changes that reflect the priorities of a majority of residents and their elected officials.

We’ve been through a time of great transition from booming growth through the recent housing market collapse and economic recession. We have recalibrated our assumptions on spending and made difficult choices in the face of declining resources. I would appreciate the opportunity to continue as a member of the team willing to face these hard realities. My willingness to work closely with the Mayor and town staff has removed the previous tension and confrontation that filled the newspapers before my election. Newly elected officials often come in with guns blazing – it’s critically important to create an environment where goals and objectives can be acted upon without disrupting the balance necessary to effectively implement policy. The August town meetings are a good example of some of these policies coming to fruition.

After the Board requested a review of builder related fees and the schedule of municipal infrastructure projects, we moved forward to remove development related surcharges (paid in addition to the standard connection fees…) in an effort to promote the completion of at least three projects in town. These additional charges had previously been justified by the need to fund on-going reconstruction of water and sewer lines in older parts of town. Now that these projects have been completed, the rationale for the extra charges has disappeared. Removing them should be the first step in promoting some renewed activity at vacant home sites, industrial parks, and on other viable new projects.

Town Staff also initiated the review of an existing ordinance regarding restrictions to trailers parked in town after some complaints were received concerning trailers parked on public streets. In reviewing the existing ordinance, it was found to be so strict that virtually everyone who maintained one of these trailers was out of compliance unless the trailer was tucked away in their backyard! This issue drew a fair amount of public input because a lot of people in our small town have a side business or recreational vehicles. After two meetings to hear public comment and recommend revisions to the draft, a final version (greatly reducing restrictions on private property) was produced by town staff and approved by the Board.

In combination with the Mayor, the Board has begun to take a harder look at the Capital Improvements Program – our longer term responsibility to maintain and replace infrastructure from vehicles and equipment, to roads, to water and sewer lines. Developing a process that defines objectives with more review and oversight that just by the administration in the town office, we are working together to develop a program that meets our needs and responsibilities while providing an honest assessment of our resources.

Individual Commissioners now find the support they need to pursue their own projects since I have implemented a process where a Commissioner can propose a project, develop an implementation plan, and return to the full Board for step by step approvals that will see the proposed project to completion. All of these steps take place at public meetings where all interested parties – the commissioners, the mayor, the public, and town staff – can review goals and objectives, raise concerns, make compromises, and move forward to completion. Gone are the days when the only option is a final product emerging from the town office as the only possible option…

The concept of a Citizens Advisory Committee was also formalized into a mechanism where grass roots ideas vetted by committee members could be driven to the Board for formal consideration without needing to work their way through the town office. Proposals are the recommendation of a group, not just an individual, and they are not altered before they reach the Board. We need people to know that this group exists so that residents can join or attend meetings and share their ideas.

My biggest concern has always been the need for an open, thoughtful and responsive town government that treats everyone fairly. We can never be fully sure of the challenges on the horizon, but we can continue to work towards a government that plans for the future, promotes economic development, and wields its power as a responsibility – not an entitlement. Please plan to exercise your responsibility(!) and come out to vote on Tuesday, September 27 at the old town office / deputies building at 22 East Main Street just off the town square.

As always, I encourage you to share your opinions on these and other issues with your elected officials. Have a great month – Chris Staiger

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