In New Hampshire, Towns are a part of State government. Consequently, a town gets all of its authority through state statutes (RSAs) enacted by the State Legislature. In order for town government to act, it must have been given the authority to act by the legislature.
Town Meeting – The Legislative Body
Conway operates under the Selectmen-Open Town Meeting legislative form of government. The legislative authority of the Town is vested in the voters of the Town. All registered voters are all eligible to vote on business (presented in the form of “Articles”) that comes before them during an annual Town Meeting. The business of Town Meeting is to elect officials, to vote on Articles in the posted Warrant, to enact a budget, and to act on any other business that may lawfully come before the meeting. Conway operates under what is called the Official Ballot Referendum System. This means that there are two sessions of Town Meeting. During the first session, or the “deliberative portion”, warrant articles are discussed and can be amended (except certain articles that are required to be placed on the official ballot) but a final vote cannot be taken. During the ‘second session” the voters go to the polls to elect officers and to vote on the warrant articles.
This is form of government is sometimes referred to as “pure” democracy since all general town authority resides in the voters themselves at Town Meeting, not in a representative body such as a town council or board of aldermen.
Board of Selectmen- The Governing Body
The administrative arm of town government is a five member Board of Selectmen. The Board discharges all duties imposed upon it by state law or the Town charter. The Board of Selectmen is the Town governing body; that means it is responsible for actually running the Town’s affairs. Under state law, the Board “manages the prudential affairs of the town.” This means doing what is necessary to carry out the votes enacted at Town Meeting. While state law authorizes the Board to carry out a variety of duties (link to state code sections), the Board is not the general agent of the Town and therefore has no broad authority to act with the full power of the Town. For example, if the town meeting appropriates money, the Board spends it. If the town meeting votes to sell land, the board signs the deed.
A primary means by which the Board of Selectmen manages the affairs of the Town is through the services of a Town Manager.
Police Commission and Police Department
Under the Conway town charter, an elected Police Commission oversees the Police Department. Under state law (RSA 105-C4) the three-member Commission appoints and establishes the compensation of police personnel.
Library Board and the Town Library
The library is overseen by the Library Board of Trustees
Other Committees and Boards
Town officials are assisted in governing the town by a variety of Boards and Committees. These include:
The Town of Conway also provides services through contracts with private businesses and other governmental entities.
Ambulance services are provided through contracts with North Conway Ambulance Service and the Conway Village Fire Protection District.
Non-precinct Fire Protection
Fire protection to areas of town that are not within a precinct is provided through a contract between the Town of Conway, Conway Village Fire Protection District and The North Conway Water Precinct. This service is funded through property tax revenues collected only from property that is not located within a precinct—those that actually receive the service.