SANBORNTON — Among the many things town voters will weigh in on at the March 11 Annual Town Meeting is whether or not to increase the size of the Board of Selectmen from three to five members.
The citizen-petitioned article enjoys support from a virtual "Who's Who" of the Sanbornton citizenry. with all three sitting selectmen, a vast majority of the Budget Committee and a department head or two signing on.
The petition was started by Craig Davis, who is running for the Budget Committee. It his first time seeking elected office, however he is a regular attendee at many town meetings and functions.
Davis said the conversation with some of his friends started when they learned that one of the complaints from all of the members of the Board of Selectman was that, in addition to attending one meeting a week, all of them have separate responsibilities to serve on other town committees as well as some county and regional boards.
"My big focus is we need to attract different people (to serve) and with the work load (per selectman), nobody but retired people can handle the work load," Davis said, saying he's like to see some younger working people apply to be selectmen, as well as serve on other boards.
Fire Chief Paul Dexter said he signed it because he was asked to and because he thought it was a subject that should be discussed by the general public. He sees negatives and positives to enlarging the board.
"We already have a horrible time getting people to volunteer on town boards," he said, noting there are always vacancies on the land-use boards and when the town needs a special committee, it's always the same people who are already involved who participate.
He said he was also concerned that it there were not enough people to run for the five separate seats then the board would have to appoint a member, which could lead to cronyism and a potential lack of diversity.
He said he understands the burden on selectmen and said one of his recommendations is to meet every other week or twice-monthly like many of the surrounding town's boards.
Dexter said the benefits are exactly as Davis described — the work load would be lighter per selectman with a five-member board.
Winnisquam Regional School District Budget Committee member Nina Gardner said her first reaction was to support a debate about it so she signed the petition.
She said reasons to support it are spreading the work load and eliminating the grumblings and innuendos that routinely occur in Sanbornton about unlawful meetings started by coincidence when two selectmen run into each other and converse. State law prohibits private conversations involving a majority of the members of a public board or commission.
On the other hand, Gardner is concerned that there are so many openings on so many boards that she fears there won't be enough interested people — something Gardner knows first hand because of her many "retirements" from the Winnisquam School Board and Budget Committee that end when she gets asked to serve again because of a lack of interest by others.
She noted that Sanbornton's three-person board works as does Tilton's five-person board. Gardner also noted that Bristol was considering going from five to three selectmen but said she's not sure of the reason behind it.
Budget Committee Chair Earl Leighton said he has mixed emotions about upping the number of selectmen.
"I can see the advantage of taking the burden off of three and how it may allow working people to serve," said Leighton.
But Leighton also echoed Dexter and Gardner when he said he is concerned about not having enough people volunteer.
Town Meeting convenes at 7 p.m. at the Sanbornton Central School.