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Paynesville Press - February 25, 2004

Township to vote on expanding board

By Michael Jacobson

On Tuesday, March 9, in addition to selecting a supervisor for three years and a clerk for two, voters in Paynesville Township will decide if the township board should be expanded to include five members.

Currently, the Paynesville Town-ship Board of Supervisors has three supervisors, each elected for a three-year term. A proposal on the ballot in March, though, will ask voters to expand the board to five members.

The exact wording of the question is: "Shall a five-member board of supervisors be adopted for the government of the town?" Voting "yes" means expanding the board to five supervisors; voting "no" means keeping three supervisors on the board.

The measure was brought to the ballot by petition. Four people collected signatures for the petition - former supervisor John Atwood, current township supervisor candidate David Kidd, township resident Floyd Lang, and former supervisor candidate Ed McIntee - according to Lang.

The idea of a five-member board was raised last year at the township's annual meeting, said Atwood. And it was discussed in Paynesville Township nearly a decade ago, added Atwood and Lang.

The four men collected 98 signatures of township residents.

The county checked 55 of these names, according to the auditor's office, to make sure they were registered to vote, since a petition to bring this change to a vote requires at least 15 percent of the number of voters at the last township election. (In March 2003, 341 township citizens voted in the annual election, meaning 52 signatures were required for the petition.)

They had no problem getting required amount of signatures, said McIntee. Feedback while collecting signatures was positive, Atwood added.

All three - Atwood, Lang, and McIntee - agree that Paynesville Township does enough business and has enough expenditures to merit having a five-member board, not three, to govern it.

Right now, notes Lang, the township board can be run by quorum of two supervisors. "The way it is now if two guys get their heads together, the third guy don't have a say," said Lang.

Having a five-member board would also provide for greater variety in supervisors, said Lang. Paynesville Township, after all, has Lake Koronis, commercial sections, residential areas, and farming. Right now, the rural areas have no representation, said Lang.

Kidd agrees that a five-member board will allow for more diversity among supervisors and allow for more rural representation. Needing three supervisors to approve township policy, instead of two, should generally reach the right decision, he said.

"I think it's a good idea because you get different factions on the board," said Atwood. "I think the overall population (of the township) should be represented," he continued. Expanding the township board to five members would get more opinions, from more people, according to Atwood.

"In the last few years, we think the populous has not been represented well by a three-person board," said McIntee, who also noted that some current supervisors are absent during the winter and having five supervisors would better the odds of always having a supervisor around. Having five supervisors, according to Kidd, would give township residents more options when want-ing to contact someone with a concern or question about township government.

Lang, who has lived in Paynesville Township for 70 years and is an active follower of township government, thinks expanding the township board to five members is a small expenditure that could save big money. While the cost of expanding the board to five members is estimated to be at least $1,800 - $50 per meeting for two new members for roughly 18 meetings per year - Lang thinks that will be offset by watching township expenditures more closely.

Atwood, who has served as supervisor in two separate stints, said he plans to stay interested in township government but has no plans to run for township office again. He said he is interested in township government "because it affects all of us" and that he wishes more people would get involved.

McIntee, however, who ran for township supervisor and lost in 2001 and 2002, did not rule out another run, saying his decision to run for supervisor again would "depend on the situation."

If the measure passes on Tuesday, March 9, and the township board is expanded to five members, the town board will have the discretion either to call a special election between 30 and 60 days after the March election to elect two new supervisors or the board could wait and have township residents elect two extra supervisors in March 2005.

Even if a special election is held, the two new supervisors will have to stand for election next March anyway, so Lang and McIntee hope the township board would wait to elect two new supervisors then, they said. If Paynesville Township adopts a five-member township board, the method for reverting to a three-member board is roughly the same. Either the township board could vote to put the measure on the ballot or a petition with signatures numbering 15 percent of the voters in the most recent township election could be submitted, putting the measure on the ballot. Going from five supervisors to three, according to state law, is done by simply not filling the terms of the two supervisors whose terms expire next.

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