Prospect voters to decide Charter changes


PROSPECT — Voters in town will decide more than the fate of candidates when they head to the polls on Election Day. The outcome of the election could also reshape local government for years to come.

There will be five Charter revision questions on the ballot Nov. 8.

“I want to urge everyone to learn about the questions and study them, and request they go out and vote,” said Glenn Gruber, who chaired the Charter Revision Commission that spawned the questions.

The commission was convened in the fall to review the town Charter and recommend possible changes. It marked the first time Prospect formed such a commission since 2000.

“Since then our country, our state and certainly our town have seen a lot of changes. The Charter Revision Commission felt it’s at least time for the people of Prospect to consider making sure that our Charter, which is essentially our local ‘rule book,’ has kept pace,” said Town Council Chairman Tom Galvin, who also served on the commission.

The commission, officials and the public debated potential Charter changes for months before the commission submitted its final recommendations to the council. Ultimately, the council approved the five questions that will appear on the ballot, though not every member agreed with all the suggested changes.

The most controversial proposed revision, which is question number one on the ballot, 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 majority vote of the council. Those appointed would be selected from candidates chosen by a search and review committee and serve for four-year terms, rather than being elected to two-year terms.

If the proposed change is approved, the people currently holding those positions would stay in office for the remainder of their terms.

This proposal has generated the most discussion and divisiveness among officials and the public. Those in favor of the change contend it is not a reflection of the current people in office, but it’s meant 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.

The second question on the ballot deals with proposed revisions to financial procedures in town.

The proposed revisions under this question include changing the dates when the mayor has to present a budget proposal and when the council has to hold a public hearing on the budget proposal. The revisions would also allow the council to reduce the operating budget after its adoption if it has over-estimated revenues or if expenditures will exceed budget estimates, granted other criteria is met.

The third question is on a proposed change that would add language to the Charter stating that anyone appointed or hired to a compensated position in town doesn’t have to be a resident.

The fourth question is a revision that would add personal interests, in addition to financial interests, to the definition of conflict of interest.

The fifth and final question groups together many smaller changes, including simple language changes, additions and deletions, and revisions that would need to be made to other sections of the Charter if other proposed changes are approved.

Some of the changes under this question include a new section regarding the appointment and removal for cause of a land use inspector, additional language that allows the council to add topics to the agenda of a special town meeting, and a requirement that all boards and commission post information, such as agenda and minutes, to the town’s website.

Gruber, who favors all the revisions, said the changes are for the long-term direction of the town.

“They’re important changes for the town to continue on the positive path it has been on,” he said.

Gruber and Galvin, who also supports each proposed revision, both stressed the importance for voters to study the explanatory text and learn about each question before voting.

“I’ll ask only that you invest some time to become familiar with the subject matter involved and on Nov. 8 help define the ‘rules’ that Prospect will follow going forward,” Galvin said. “Like any election, it’s about the future, and this is your opportunity to help shape it.

The following Charter revision questions will be on the ballot in Prospect Nov. 8. The full explanatory text for the questions is also available in the Town Clerk’s Office and will be available at the polls on Election Day.

1 Shall the Charter amendments providing that the Tax Collector, Town Clerk and Town Treasurer be appointed by the Mayor for 4-year terms, with majority vote by the Town Council, in place of the current provisions providing that those positions are elected for 2-year terms, be approved?

2 Shall the Charter amendments revising certain financial, audit, budget, and expenditure procedures, as set forth in Chapter 8 of the Amended Charter on file in the Prospect Town Clerk’s Office, be approved?

3 Shall the Charter amendments providing that the Town of Prospect may hire employees or appoint officers for Town positions without a requirement that they be resident electors of Prospect be approved?

4 Shall the Charter amendments revising the definition of conflict of interest to include personal interests, in addition to financial interests, be approved?

5 Shall all other changes contained in the Amended Charter on file in the Prospect Town Clerk’s Office be approved?