Primary ballot will include question on study commission


During primary elections this June, voters in Hingham, Havre and Hill County will be asked whether they want to establish special commissions to study the efficiency of their local governments.

The issue must appear on local ballots once every 10 years, though study commissions can also be established at the prompting of local governing bodies or by a petition from local voters.

If voters approve the establishment of a study commission, they must elect people during the general elections to serve on the body. Most study commissions consist of three people.

According to state law, "the purpose of a study commission is to study the existing form and powers of a local government and procedures for delivery of local government services and compare them with other forms available under the laws of the state."

The commissions are required to hold meetings to garner public input, publish reports of their findings, and make recommendations based on those findings. The report and recommendations must be presented to voters within two years.

Since the provision to establish study commissions first appeared on primary ballots in 1984, voters in Havre and Hill County have twice voted to form the commissions, Hill County Clerk and Recorder Diane Mellem said today.

Some of the recommendations a commission could make include changing the form of local government, incorporating an area as a city, or consolidating two or more existing entities.

If the recommendations included significant changes to local government, the issue would appear on the ballot during the next general election, Hill County Commissioner Doug Kaercher said today.

Some of the recommendations made by the city study commission in Havre in 1994 appeared on a ballot, City Clerk Lowell Swenson said today. The initiatives included measures that would have established a city charter, required city employees to live within city limits, and make the election system nonpartisan. The charter included a proposal that would have created the position of city manager to oversee the day-to-day operations of the city, Swenson said.

Voters rejected the charter proposal, and though they approved several of the separate ballot measures, the measures were tied to the charter and could not be enacted, Swenson said.

The city of Havre uses the commission-executive form of city government, which consists of an elected council and one elected executive - the mayor - who is elected at large. Under the commission-manager form, many of the duties performed by the mayor are assigned to the city manager.

Kaercher, who served on the last county study commission prior to his election as a county commissioner, said study commissions can identify ways to make local government more efficient.

"What we did in the last study commission was


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