Published October 29. 2012 4:00AM
Groton - Charter revisions in the city historically have not generated the interest from taxpayers that, say, a more controversial spending issue might.
But after 25 years without a charter change, members of the charter revision commission say the city is due and they hope this is the year. Commission members have put in more than a year of their time working on the newest changes they hope will be approved by voters at the Nov. 6 referendum.
Along with the cleaning, simplifying and updating of charter language, one of the more significant changes proposed for the charter is the increase in power of the city council over the budget.
The council would have the authority, under the proposed revisions, to make recommendations and either approve or reject the Mayor's budget before sending it to voters at the annual city budget meeting, held on the first Monday in June.
"To me it was a matter of having another set of eyes," said Mayor Marian Galbraith.
In the past, Charter Revision Commission Chairwoman Shirley Dunbar-Rose said some mayors would ask for input from the council and others would not.
The proposed revisions also establish a code of ethics and a five-member board of ethics. While there are ethics rules for city employees, charter revision commission co-chairman Robert Zuliani said there is no process in place to evaluate or act on complaints.
Other changes include an increase in the term of the city clerk, from two years to four years. Dunbar-Rose said the commission looked at the position in other towns and thought the change was needed because of the length of training involved in the position.
The revision creates the building and zoning, human resources and planning departments along with positions of city planner, building officials and human resources director. The positions are presently filled.
Other changes include: elimination of city residency requirement for employees; elimination of the obsolete city treasurer position; the requirement that the city auditor audit all city-owned businesses; defines the role of the chief of police and fire chief in hiring and disciplinary matters; and adds a rule that voids bond authorizations if the bonded project is not started within three years.
"It's a good honest attempt to modernize and bring the charter up to current day standard and needs," Zuliani said.
Recommendations by the charter revision commission failed in 2002 when only 400 voters, less than the necessary 15 percent, showed up at the polls. City officials don't expect a repeat because of a typically larger voter turnout in a national election year. The charter was last revised in 1987.
The revised charter and a summary of proposed changes is available at www.cityofgroton.com.