Charter Panel Asked To Consider Including Commission On Aging

Commission on Aging Chairman Curt Symes appeared briefly before the Charter Revision Commission August 25, requesting the panel consider including the commission as a new entry in Newtown’s governing document.

Mr Symes said he and his follow commissioners would like to at least see the presence of his panel and a brief description of its role in a new charter revision, which is in the very early stages of development, and likely will not appear before voters for possible endorsement until November 2015.

He also brought along suggested language from a recent Ridgefield revision, in which that community’s commission on aging is incorporated.

Calling his panel formerly “one of the best kept secrets in Newtown,” Mr Symes discussed how the commission has more recently increased its activities and outreach, and how members have improved the visibility of the commission among other elected and appointed boards in town.

He credited the newest commission alternate Claire Theune with assisting by researching other communities to see how those towns position their commissions on aging in their respective charters. She learned most towns do include their commissions in charter language.

Mr Symes said getting the local commission into Newtown’s charter is one of a number of ways the panel is continuing its efforts to heighten its visibility.

He said based on information gathered by the Newtown registrars of voters, the community includes about 5,000 residents over age 60 among its roughly 16,000 adults, and admitted that for much of his 44 years in town, he was unaware the Commission on Aging existed.

Mr Symes said since the commission will continue to play a role in the senior center development aspect of the town’s new community center plan, he believes it is “essential” to recognize the panel’s existence in the charter.

Charter Revision Commission Chairman Jeff Capeci said it is part of his group’s goal to thoroughly review the document, and to look at adding or removing groups as warranted, as well as creating guidelines to ensure newly created commissions and boards are incorporated into future charters in a timely manner.

Charter Commissioner James Ritchie asked if Mr Symes thought inclusion in the charter would serve to help the group if it goes out for grants. Mr Symes said the Commission on Aging has just begun exploring the prospect of applying for grants, but so far, he has “never been asked if the Commission on Aging was part of the charter.”

Ms Theune was invited to join Mr Symes before the charter commission, to review the language included in the Ridgefield charter. She indicated the Ridgefield passage summed up the number of members and terms of service, and that the Ridgefield commission was charged with studying the needs of seniors in that community, and to coordinate with other municipal programs and agencies to meet those needs.

The latest charter meeting opened with a single resident, Michael Salaris, making his third appearance before the commission and bringing additional documentation he asked to have added to existing information he previously presented.

Mr Salaris has said he is concerned that a bifurcated budget creates a potential disadvantage for the school district.

He has appeared at each of the commission’s meeting thus far asking the commission to consider returning the budget vote to a single line endorsement or rejection, versus splitting the vote between the school district and the municipal services budget, which also includes all debt service on community capital projects.

Before the end of the August 25 meeting, commission Vice Chair Robert Hall inquired about creating some guidelines for public participation, so the commission could reserve the right to limit the amount of time during public comments in situations where other presenters or members of the public were waiting to be heard.

Mr Capeci agreed, and asked Mr Hall to draft some guideline ideas.

“When there is one person we can give them time, but when we have [more] people, we have to take that into consideration,” he said. Mr Hall also suggested moving the public comments either to the end of each meeting, or holding them until any invited guests or officials have made their scheduled presentations.

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