Three Plus Two: Will the Number of Selectmen Be Increasing?

How government is structured will be discussed at 7:30 p.m. at Town Hall.

Will Belmont residents have two more Selectmen to vote for? Could the Town Administrator become more in line with town managers in places such as Cambridge.

That could be the conclusion when the town's Government Structure Review Committee meets with the Board of Selectmen tonight at around 7:30 p.m. as the committee presents recommendations of changes in how the town is run.

Belmont's three-member board has been in existence since the town was incorporated in 1859.

While nothing has been revealed before tonight's meeting, several members of both groups have strongly suggested that the town requires a more sophisticated approach towards governing a municipality with a nearly $90 million budget.

While they have kept their cards close to their vest, the possible reasoning behind possibly the most significant changes to governance in Belmont is the past 150 years has been discussed by members in open meetings over the past year.

The main reason for revamping town government is a simple one: Belmont is no longer a small New England village filled with orchards and open space. Today, the town is a mid-sized suburb of Boston with a town budget approaching $90 million with a wide array of demands from residents and town departments.

While the demands on government increases, the town is governed by three part-time elected officials who essentially volunteer several hours a week to running a sophisticated town.

In addition, under the current structure, the Selectmen are responsible for nearly all decision concerning the day-to-day running of the town. That includes a range from preparing and debating the town budget to approving such menial yet essential tasks as voting on one-day liquor licenses.

In past discussions, Selectmen and members of the Government Structure Committee have remarked that the town requires a strong town administrator – one that takes over a significant number of assignments from the Selectmen from preparing the town budget to approving such requests as approving licenses and other "minor" tasks.

The second recommendation is likely that the Selectmen will be restructured into a policy council, making recommendations and studying long-term course of action for the town. It would be increased to five members to allow for a greater infusion of opinions.


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