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Public Hearing Monday on Draft Charter Revisions

Last chance to give input on Charter Revisions before the final report goes to the Board of Selectmen.

The Charter Revision Commission (CRC) is holding a public hearing Monday night on 13 changes to Bethel’s Town Charter, ranging from minor technical updates to increasing the Board of Selectmen (BOS) from three members to five.

Over the last 15 months, the CRC has considered a set of proposed changes submitted by the BOS when the Commission was created, as well as any changes the seven-member body chose to take up.
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Download the draft final report above (first PDF) for a breakdown of each proposal and the three-page tracking document (second PDF), which itemizes the specific edits to the Town Charter and how the CRC voted on each.
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The first two proposals together represent the biggest changes being proposed, as they would alter both the makeup of the town’s top governing board, as well as the terms its members serve.

In conjunction with an increase from three to five BOS members — four selectman and the first selectman — the CRC is recommending increasing the terms for those positions from 2 years to 4 years.

“This item engendered the most debate amongst the Commission members,” according to final report. “Ultimately, the members voted in favor while recognizing that there is some risk in 4-year terms.”

Despite any inherent risks, the CRC concluded that “the first year of any newly-elected selectman is dominated by learning the scope and responsibilities of the position,” and that a longer term of office would also attract stronger candidates for first selectman.

Another change that is likely to draw considerable discussion is the proposal to allow the Board of Finance (BOF) to adjust the bottom line of department budgets but not specific line items.

Under the change, if a department wants to purchase a piece of equipment that the BOF does not think is necessary at the time, CRC Chairman David Olson gave as an example, the board can decrease the department’s budget by that amount but it would still be within the department’s discretion to find the funds elsewhere.

Other proposed changes include moving the Annual Town Meeting from early May to early April; increasing the thresholds for Town Meetings, bids and special appropriations and transfers; depoliticizing salaries and the Public Utilities Commission; and official recognition for the town’s volunteer fire companies.

Olson said he is hopeful that people will come out to give input at the public hearing Monday.

He is also hopeful that much of the feedback will be relatively easy amendments to the draft final report. If so, the CRC plans to hold a meeting directly after the hearing to finalize the report.

The CRC will present the completed final report to the BOS at the Jan. 21 meeting.

The public hearing will be held Monday at 7 p.m. in Meeting Room A in the Municipal Center.
Dan Gaita January 09, 2014 at 08:01 AM
http://bethel.patch.com/groups/daniel-r-gaitas-blog/p/bethel-charter--may-have-promising-revisions Will we be offered an opportunity to vote "by item" instead of "all or none" Reason being, I am concerned that the two primary issues of debate may tank the entire charter revision... 1. A Four year term in a State with no recall provision may have consequences. Let the voters decide on this issue separately on the ballot. 2. The change in BOF authority may have negative effects on our financial checks and balances. Let the voters decide on this issue separately on the ballot. All else seems to make sense...but these two issues may tank the revisions as a whole. And that would be a big waste of time for all of the CRC volunteers that invested hours doing this....

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