Warren Planning Board scuttles lighter staffing plan

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Members of the Warren Planning Board have rejected a proposal by their chairman to reduce the board’s voting membership from nine to seven.

The board is currently composed of nine voting members. But at the most recent meeting, Chairman Fred Massie proposed reducing the voting membership to seven, with two alternates.

Reducing the ranks, he said, would make it easier for the board to reach a voting quorum; currently five members, a quorum would have been reduced to four under his plan. The change would also help with what has become a chronic problem in Warren, he said — finding residents willing to volunteer on town boards.

“How many people are willing to serve on this board?” Mr. Massie asked.

Town officials considered a similar change several years ago before it was dismissed. But Mr. Massie said it would provide “flexibility,” as alternate members would be able to sit in place of their absent full members if needed.

“I think it would make it easier,” he said.

His fellow members disagreed.

“It’s just less people putting in an opinion,” member Charles A. “Chuck” Thibaudeau Jr. said.

“I’m leaning with Chuck on this,” Brandt Heckert said. “I’m a little uncomfortable lowering that number. I just feel like it would be more appropriate having the higher number.”

“My sense is, I feel like we’d need to have a compelling reason to want to change it,” added board member Douglas Kallfelz.

Mr. Massie said he’d defer to the full board’s judgement and drop the matter. But he joked that one thing still needs to change: The board’s chairs.

With nine members crammed into nine seats on a relatively narrow board, there’s no room.

“I’ve asked (town planner Caroline Wells) to look into the process of getting smaller chairs,” he said. “Quite frankly, it’s an absurd situation.”

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