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Northfield group ready to begin governance study

Members named

NORTHFIELD — The town now has a committee charged with studying different forms of government that may work in Northfield.

The formation of the Town Governance Study Committee was approved at a recent special town meeting, and, last week, its five members were appointed by the Selectboard, the town moderator, and members of an unofficial town committee that started studying town government models last October.

The committee has 90 days to issue a report to town, with or without recommendations, and will give an interim report at the May annual town meeting. Subjects of study include the effectiveness of three- and five-member boards of selectmen, as well as the benefits of having a strong town manager, a position with more authority than a town administrator, which Northfield currently has. They will also look into compiling town policies into a guidebook that could be used to streamline decision making.

The Selectboard appointed Nathaniel Hussey and Barry Bordner at its Tuesday meeting. Hussey, 27, grew up in Northfield, and returned in January after working with the Peace Corps. While in college, he served on the student senate and was president of the inter Greek council.

The board was impressed with his Peace Corps service, and glad to have some young blood on the study committee.

“We have to get our younger folks involved (in town matters),” said Selectboard member John “Jack” Spanbauer.

Bordner is president of Winchester Precision Technologies in Winchester, N.H. The Selectboard believe his management and business experience will be an asset to the committee.

Christian Guertin was appointed to the committee by Nathan L’Etoile, town moderator. He is a physicist, working for Vermont Photonics in Brattleboro, Vt., and has lived in Northfield since 2010.

Guertin has not served on any boards or committees in the past, but said he has made it a point to attend annual town meetings in Northfield and the towns where he previously lived.

The unofficial working group chose its chairman, Samuel Richardson, and member Homer “Tony” Stavely, as its appointees.

Richardson is a retired math teacher who served on the Zoning Board of Appeals as chairman.

Stavely is a former professor of psychology for Keene State University, and has been active in the unofficial working group.

The new committee will have a jump-start, with the work of the unofficial group. Since October, its members have been researching town governments, meeting with those on three- and five-member boards of selectmen in regional towns, and speaking with area town managers.

Richardson said unofficial working group members will be available, should the committee seek their input.

“We hope they’ll tap into us and use our research,” he said.

Richardson is eager to get to work.

“I’m excited; I’m pleased with all of the appointments,” said Richardson. “It’s representative of the town, and diverse.”

Richardson said he had hoped the committee wouldn’t be so male-dominated. Though many local women were part of the unofficial working group, none had applied to the official committee.

The five-member committee has the option to appoint an additional two members itself, something Richardson said will be among its first orders of business, along with choosing a chairman. Citizens’ interest forms may be filled out at Town Hall for those who would like to be considered for the committee. As of Friday, Richardson said a first meeting had not yet been scheduled.

David Rainville can be reached at:
or 413-772-0261, ext. 279

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