Commission drops town manager proposal

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A proposal to change Naugatuck’s form of government to a town manager style will not be part of the Charter Revision Commission’s final report.

NAUGATUCK — A controversial proposal raised by the Charter Revision Commission to switch the borough to a town manager form of government is no longer on the table.

The commission spent months studying the town manager style of government. Ultimately, the commission couldn’t break through an impasse on whether to recommend the proposal in its final report.

According to Andrew Bottinick, chair of the commission, the commission decided to not include the proposal in its final report at its meeting Tuesday night.

The proposal was to hire a town manager to run the day-to-day operations of borough government. The Board of Mayor and Burgesses would have remained the legislative body of the borough, while the mayor’s position would have become more akin to a burgess.

Along with the commission deadlocking 4-4 on the issue a couple of other factors contributed to the commission’s decision, Bottinick explained. He said the consensus of the commission was that the Board of Mayor and Burgesses would have rejected the proposal if the commission backed it, and that residents who spoke at pubic hearings did so overwhelmingly against the switch.

“It was pretty much a stalemate, and I think the feeling was even if we approved it, it was not going to get past the board,” Bottinick said.

Bottinick added that it would have been difficult to draft language changes in the Charter to go with the proposal by the commission’s Dec. 16 deadline to have its final report submitted to the board.

Although the town manager proposal is dead for now, Bottinick personally felt it’s a good idea and that a future Charter Revision Commission should explore it.

“I still think it’s a good idea,” he said. “I just think the town is not ready for it yet.”

The commission did reach a consensus on a proposal to alter the borough’s budget referendum process. The proposed change is a slight one.

The proposed revision would require the same 8 percent of voters to sign a petition in order to force the first referendum on the budget, and a 15 percent voter turnout for the referendum to count. The change comes in the number of signatures required to force a second and third referendum.

Currently, 8 percent of voters need to sign a petition to force a budget vote for a second and third time. Under the proposal, Bottinick said, that number will be cut in half to 4 percent.

Bottinick explained the feeling among commission members was they didn’t want automatic referendums to follow the first one, if it was rejected, because there’s a chance the public would favor the second budget approved by borough officials and holding another referendum would be a waste of money.

By cutting the percent of signatures needed in half to force a second and third referendum, Bottinick said, it’s easier to force additional referendums if the public wants them.

The commission also refined other proposed revisions for its final report, including switching the municipal elections from May to November, extending the mayor’s term to four years, eliminating some outdated sections of the Charter, eliminating the bidding process language from the Charter so that it can be rewritten as an ordinance to give officials more flexibility, and making the town clerk position a hired one rather than an elected one.

The commission must submit its final report to the board by Dec. 16. Any proposed revisions approved by the board would go to a referendum.

Bottinick was confident the commission would conclude its work in time.

“It was a very productive group,” he said. “I’m very proud to be part of it.”