Saturday, October 01, 2022

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Commission Formed to Review, Revise Clinton’s Town Charter

Changes may soon be coming to the town charter after Town Council ratified the charge for a charter revision commission (CRC) at its July 6 meeting.

The town charter, operating as the constitution for the town, outlines the roles and bylaws for the different boards, commissions, and town departments in Clinton. Earlier this year, the Town Council began discussing the need to update sections of the charter. The council ultimately agreed to appoint a new CRC to consider changes. The commission will likely be named at the next Town Council meeting on Wednesday, July 20.

With the charge now ratified, residents can expect to see proposed charter changes publicly revealed next winter. Per the charge, the CRC has until the third week of January 2023 to hand in proposed charter changes.

The charge asks the CRC to look at nine specific areas of the charter for changes. Some are minor fixes such as removing references to the Board of Selectmen. Other changes, however, are more significant. Among those proposed changes, the Council is asking for is the ability to hire a town manager for a term of longer than three years. Other major proposed changes include increasing the amount of money the town can appropriate without a referendum and the cancellation of the required annual town meeting. By statute, the CRC would need to weigh in on whatever the Council asks it to, but the commission can also consider further changes.

After spending about two months seeking people interested in appointments, the council announced that it will appoint five people to serve on the new commission. Currently there are four members of the public who have put their name forward for consideration. The council will be seek a fifth member by its next meeting.

Town Manager Karl Kilduff said that while it was thought the CRC would be fully appointed by now, he did not expect any issues with the Council taking a little longer to find a last member.

“The Resolution gives the Commission a specific date to be completed,” Kilduff said. “The two-week delay in creating the commission and approving the charge does not change the end date for the commission’s work. The milestones given to the Council were estimates.”

Once appointed, the first order of business will be to hold a public meeting which will likely come next month. Before beginning any work, the CRC will hold a hearing to get public feedback on any proposals for changes from the public.

“The timing of the public hearing will be set once the Commission is fully appointed ,and it is their first agenda item,” Kilduff explained. “It depends upon how quickly the members are appointed and sworn in to serve. A meeting of the commission would have to be held to discuss the charge and the steps for those not familiar with the process. Part of that discussion would be setting the public hearing date.”

Following that meeting, the CRC have from August to December to work on charter revisions. A second public hearing on a draft of changes will be held in early January 2023, and then the changes will be turned over to Town Council for review. Once the revisions reach Town Council, another public hearing will be held and the Council may seek additional changes. The CRC would then have 30 days to address the Council’s recommendations. If there are no recommendations, the draft becomes final.

The Town Council will be expected to vote to either approve or reject the proposed charter changes in April 2023. Assuming the proposed changes are approved, the council would have 15 months to get the public input on the proposed changes. However, it is most likely that any proposed changes to the charter will be on the ballot as part of the 2023 municipal elections.

The charter requires the town to appoint a CRC to review the document no less than every five years, but, given the large change in government structure that the town underwent, it was suggested by other towns’ town managers that Clinton appoint a new CRC about sooner than that to work out any issues that council members may have noticed.

The last time the town appointed a CRC was in 2018 when a major charter revision was proposed that changed the form of government from the board of selectman model to the current town manager-town council model. Citizens approved the proposed change in November 2018, and the new government went into effect in November 2019.


Eric O’Connell covers news for Clinton for Zip06. Email Eric at e.oconnell@shorepublishing.com.

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