The town of Pepperell does not have a home rule charter; and this is significant. Most of the communities in Massachusetts have home rule charters. We do not. However, we are now working to rectify this situation. Last fall the Board of Selectmen established a sub-committee to gather approximately 1,200 signatures on a petition to put the charter question on this spring’s town election ballot. Due to the strong interest in a town charter, this was accomplished in rather short order. Additionally, the petition made it possible for nine citizens to run for Charter Commission, the body that will write a charter for our town.
It is important to understand why having a home rule charter is so necessary. Having a charter accomplishes exactly what its name implies; it gives us “home rule.” We will be able to govern ourselves, within limits, as opposed to following state laws, which dictate how our town government should operate. A charter would establish, for example, how many selectmen we should have and how long each would serve, the definition and job description of our town administrator, which town officials would be elected and which would be appointed and who would be doing the appointing.
More pertinent to the current fiscal times, a charter could create a “strong town administrator” who would have budget control and the ability to hire and fire, as opposed to the state defined town administrator we now have without those functions (the state job description of a town administrator is usually referred to as a “weak” town administrator).
The problem we now face is finding nine citizens to run for a position on the commission. This is an opportunity to make a significant contribution to our town while at the same time making a dramatic improvement to the quality of life in Pepperell. If you think this statement is exaggerated, just think of the fiscal efficiency we would realize with one experienced administrator controlling the town’s budget as opposed to several department heads each submitting a budget to the Finance Committee.
By deciding to run, you will be making a commitment to the town. While we would have the availability of charters from several other towns, we would still have to meet a few times a month to consider which parts of those charters best suit the needs of Pepperell. Each meeting would be in the evening. We have, according to statute, 18 months to complete the task, although I would assume we could finish long before that. Once a charter is written, it would be put on the ballot for acceptance or rejection by the citizens of Pepperell.
To paraphrase the Marine Corps recruiting slogan, we need nine good men and women to get the job done. Please give this opportunity some serious consideration. To get on the ballot, all it takes is a trip to the town clerk’s office to obtain nomination papers and then 25 signatures for nomination. Nomination papers must be returned to the town clerk’s office no later than March 5, 2012.