ROCKPORT — An article seeking the town's permission to acquire the Granite Savings Bank building may dominate much of the discussion at next month's Town Meeting, but it won't be the only article prompting spirited debate.
The warrant, closed by selectmen Tuesday, contains 13 article, including a citizens' petition to change the way Finance Committee members are appointed; an article to have selectmen define the town administrator's role; and an article from the Community Preservation Committee seeking approval for the dispersal of $531,002 for four projects around town.
The petition, penned by Charles Francis, calls for Finance Committee members to be appointed by the town moderator. Currently, the selectmen are charged with appointing Finance Committee members to three-year terms.
In contrast to petitions for spring Town Meeting, which only need 10 signatures to appear on the warrant, petition articles for fall town meetings require 100 signatures.
Francis' petition was submitted with 218 signatures, many of them from residents who believe the integrity of the Finance Committee's independence from the rest of town government is compromised under town bylaw.
"They collected those signatures in a very short period of time," Selectman Ellen Canavan said yesterday. "The goal is to give (Finance Committee members) more independence and protection and the ability to stand up and say whatever they feel. They don't report to the Board of Selectmen, they report to Town Meeting."
Government and Bylaw Committee Chairman Barbara Dapolito said her committee's article to direct the selectmen to compose a definition of the town administrator's role for consideration by the voters at the 2009 annual Town Meeting came from a "unanimous feeling" that the issue needed to be addressed now.
"Other bylaws refer to the town administrator and we don't have a definition for town administrator," Dapolito said yesterday. "It's totally appropriate for the good of the town; it's time to fill the blank space."
Dapolito said the article places no precise time limit on selectmen and that the issue should not be bogged down with personal feelings toward current Administrator Michael Racicot.
The administrator's role is now defined by a four-page long job description, but has never been defined in the town's bylaws.
"The blank section is supposed to describe what is a town administrator in Rockport," Canavan said yesterday. "From what I gather, (the role) has evolved over time with more and more delegated by the selectmen to our existing town administrator. A lot of us think he shouldn't be doing a lot of what he's doing, then there's another group that is thankful he does."
Selectman Armand Aparo said Tuesday he doesn't believe there is anything wrong with the administrator's current job responsibilities, but Canavan said she would like to see the administrator's role determined from scratch and by a broader group of people than solely the selectmen.
The Government and Bylaw Committee also submitted articles to see if the town will approve editing changes to the first 20 pages of bylaws. Dapolito encourages voters to read over the changes, which will be available for viewing at the town clerk's office leading up to Town Meeting and located in the back of the room at Town Meeting.
Money from the Community Preservation Act could purchase watershed land, repair Rockport Art Association buildings, pay for design work at the Community House, and assist residents who need help paying their rent or mortgage.
Town Meeting has never failed to approve a project proposed by the Preservation Committee.
According to Racicot, the town will work with town counsel for the next two weeks to ensure the legality of the wording for all warrant articles.
Town Meeting is set for Monday, Sept. 8, at 7 p.m. at Rockport High School.
Jonathan L'Ecuyer can be reached at email@example.com.