Council holding hearing on Charter revisions

PROSPECT — The public will get another chance this week to speak on proposed Charter revisions.

The Town Council will host a public hearing Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Town Hall for the public to discuss the suggested revisions and any changes they would like to see made to the town Charter.

“Until we come to a decision point everything is on the table and up for discussion,” council Chairman Tom Galvin said.

A Charter Revision Commission was formed last fall to review the Charter and recommended possible changes. It marked the first time the Charter has been reviewed for revisions since 2000.

The commission has proposed 23 revisions — some more significant and contentious than others — that the council has been reviewing and discussing. The proposal that has caused the most debate is making the town clerk, town treasurer and tax collector appointed rather than elected positions.

Under the proposed change, the mayor would appoint the town clerk, town treasurer and tax collector with the consent — majority vote — of the council. The change would create job descriptions and performance evaluations for the positions. Officials would also be able to remove the people from the positions, which would be filled through a hiring process, for cause.

This proposed change has caused the most division among officials. Those in favor of it contend the change is not a reflection of the current people in office but rather to ensure the best qualified candidates hold the jobs in the future. Those against it argue the revision would take the power away from the voters to choose the people for the positions.

Galvin weighed in the proposal.

“Folks should appreciate that the proposed Charter changes have nothing to do with how the town was run in the past but everything to do how it should be run in the future,” he said. “We’ve been fortunate to have some individuals in office who have acquired their skills over decades of ‘on the job’ training. Unfortunately, all things come to an end, and those individuals won’t be there forever. Their successors will probably be less talented and certainly will be less experienced.”

The proposed changes also include: allowing the mayor to cast a vote to elect the chairman of the council only if the vote remains a tie after three votes; allowing the council to establish a compensation plan for all town employees not covered by collective bargaining agreements; limiting the number of consecutive annual audits performed by the same accountant or same firm to five; mandating that all boards, commissions and the council post their activities on the town webpage.

Following the public hearing, the council will have 15 days to submit its thoughts on the proposals and requested changes to the commission. The commission will finalize a list of revisions. The list will then go back to the council, which will determine what questions go on the ballot in November. Ultimately, voters will decide what, if any, changes are implemented.

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