EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

February 6, 2014

Atkinson may increase number of selectmen

By Alex Lippa

---- — ATKINSON — For the second time in the last decade, voters have the chance to increase the number of selectmen from three to five.

Several residents said they were approached by Ray Pelletier to sign the petition for the article. He could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Resident Joel Murphy said having more people on the board leads to better decisions.

“It just made sense to me,” he said. “Right now, all it takes is two votes.”

Murphy said he wasn’t displeased with what selectmen were doing now, but thought it could be a better system.

“I’m not unhappy,” he said, “but I’m more along the line that the large majority would work.”

In 2006, a similar proposal failed by a large margin, 1,009-740.

Town Administrator Bill Innes said he doesn’t have an opinion on the article.

“I haven’t had the opportunity to really look into it,” he said.

Selectman William Baldwin also said he wasn’t sure if he supported a three- or five-person board.

“On one hand, it would be great because we would always have a quorum,” he said. “That way it wouldn’t stall important issues.”

But there is a downside, he said.

“Too often, over the years, I’ve seen people run with their own personal agendas,” he said. “That’s just not good for the town as a whole. It would have to be the right people. I’d like to see some new people run for positions with fresh ideas that would help the community.”

Resident Tom Ryan said he signed the petition because it would allow more people to get involved.

“We are a good sized town,” he said. “Three doesn’t seem like a whole lot of people to make a decision. The more opinions, the better.”

The article was moved to the ballot without much discussion at the end of deliberative session Saturday. At the meeting, resident Tim Dziechowski said he was intrigued by the idea because it would help ensure that the town has a quorum in case of sickness.

Residents will have the their say at the polls March 11. If the article passes, the new selectmen wouldn’t be elected until the 2015 Town Meeting.