Charter Revision Commission Begins Approving Revisions
Having begun work in March 2021, the Charter Revision Commission has spent a lot of time discussing and honing ideas into workable changes to the Town Charter. At its October 13 meeting, all that work began translating into proposed final revisions.
The first approved proposal was to Charter Section 2-01C, allowing town bodies to set their own rules for conduct of meetings. The provision has been revised to add, “Should any such rules be in conflict with this Charter or the General Statutes, the Charter or the General Statutes, as applicable, will prevail.”
A revision that had garnered a lot of disagreement and deliberation in prior meetings concerning whether board and commission members could abstain from a vote was finally agreed on at a compromise. Commission members could abstain from a vote on minutes of a meeting they did not attend under the modified proposal.
The revised provision states, “It shall be the duty of every member present at any Town Body meeting to vote affirmatively or negatively on each question raised, excepting that a member present at any Town Body meeting who has missed a previous meeting by not attending, for any reason, shall have the choice to abstain from voting on the minutes of such previous meeting.”
That proposed revision was approved unanimously.
“The common denominator [of agreement between the commission] was abstaining from minutes,” said commission member Jim Gaston. “It’s common ground I can live with.”
Charter Provision 2-32, concerning procedures for filling vacancies in appointive boards and commission was modified to allow 90 days for the first selectman to make the new appointment. Currently the timeline is 45 days. That proposed revision was approved unanimously.
Provision 2-135, concerning the town clerk, was modified to include “who shall also be the Registrar of Vital Statistics” in the summary of general responsibilities. The proposed revision was approved unanimously.
Provision 4-05(8), concerning the finance director and the Capital Improvement Plan, was modified from requiring the plan to be five years to stating that the plan should be “of at least five years with annual adjustments to allow for fiscal flexibility.”
“We’ll make it a minimum so the town can plan for longer,” said Gaston.
The proposed change was approved unanimously.
Section 2-15, concerning Terms and Term Limits, was unanimously approved remain as is. The commission had been charged to consider “if members of elected boards should be restricted from concurrently serving on other appointed boards, review term limits and term structures of major boards.
“The town is always looking for people, I recommend we leave it as is,” said Gaston.
Section 2-275, concerning the Sustainable Energy Commission’s responsibilities, was modified to include that the commission shall identify, implement, and support programs and strategies that may result in cost savings “or a reduction in environmental impact” for the town or school district.
Charged with making revisions to the town’s charter on March 3 of this year, the commission has 16 months to submit its final report to the Legislative Council. That report will contain all the proposed revisions, which may either be approved, rejected, or further modified by the council.
All final revisions then go to a public vote.
With the final forms of the regulations needed by June 3, 2022, the council is tentatively planning a public hearing on proposed changes in April. The panel hopes to put the final changes out to referendum for approval by voters on Election Day in November 2022.
The commission still has a number of revisions to look into, the biggest being the Board of Finance, particularly whether to eliminate the BOF altogether, give the BOF more “teeth,” or possibly leaving things as they are. The question of what to do with the finance board stems from a recent trend in interactions between that elected panel and the Legislative Council. According to commission members, the BOF would work on an issue and then present it to the council, only for the council to start the process from scratch, ignoring the BOF’s work.
Reporter Jim Taylor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.