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By PAUL J. SPETRINI
EXETERâ€”The Exeter Town Council hopes voters have had a change of heart since 2010 as Monday night, during its regular monthly meeting, the council approved a measure to once again ask residents to add a new position in the notoriously small municipal government.
In a 3-1 vote, with member Dan Patterson dissenting, the council agreed to move forward with a ballot question in this Novemberâ€™s election seeking approval to create a town administrator position that will employ someone to handle the â€śday-to-day operationsâ€ť of Exeter.
Council President Arlene Hicks, who currently operates as an unofficial liaison between members of the public and the council whenever she can, said Monday that the town is at a disadvantage by not having a dedicated person in place that can make decisions, answer questions or field inquiries on behalf of the municipality.
Citing examples where state officials have needed paperwork filled out â€śthat dayâ€ť or local residents have had a request of the council only to be told â€śwe meet in three weeksâ€ť, Hicks said Exeter misses out on a lot by not having a person of authority in charge who can make decisions.
Itâ€™s an argument member Cal Ellis has made to voters for years.
â€śThis issue has been on the ballot many times,â€ť Ellis said. â€śAfter defeating a year and a half ago, my thought we give it a rest but the fact is when something needs to be done, it needs to be addressed over and over again.â€ť
In voting against the measure, Patterson said he was concerned about the politics of the position. With a council that is up for reelection every two years, he argued, whatâ€™s to stop the position from constantly turning over?
â€śIf we appoint an administrator, every time we have new council, heâ€™d get fired,â€ť Patterson said. â€śMy thought is why not have a mayor? We can have them voted on every two years. With this council, youâ€™d be spending six months doing a search every couple of terms.â€ť
Hicks offered a suggestion of having the proposed town administrator sign a contract and operate much the way the school committee, which itself is constantly up for election, interacts with a superintendent.
Following the approval of the ballot question, the council voted 4-0 to hold a public hearing, as required by law, at its next meeting in September.
The council also introduced a pair of ordinance changes during Mondayâ€™s meeting that would help shape the future of a planned village overlay district and would amend the townâ€™s comprehensive plan. For more on these changes and what they mean for local residents, pick up a copy of next weekâ€™s Standard-Times.