Minutes of the Meeting

Charter Review Commission

05 September 2001

The second meeting of the Charter Review Commission met at 7:00 P.M. at the Town Hall on Wednesday, September 5, 2001. All members were present, including alternate Rena Tyson.

Sav Rebecchi, Chair Thomas Tighe

Nancy Mason, Secretary Rena Tyson, alternate

Peter Shocket Norma Willis, Council liaison

Michael Swistak

The minutes of the last meeting, 23 August 2001, were reviewed and minor changes were made and corrections noted.

A motion was made and seconded that the minutes as amended be accepted; and was so voted.

Sav Rebecci discussed the spread sheet that he developed for us as a guide. It was explained that our right to undergo this process is in the state statutes. North Kingstown has an item in their Charter #1305 which explains the process of amending the Charter.

Sav also explained his Purple Folder. It has references to the process of the 1992 review with it's proposed amendments. It has references to the final version to be put on the state ballot once the Town Council accepts our recommendations.

There was a discussion of whether the ballot would be presented at a general election in November or a special election on a formal ballot, or at a special Town Meeting.

There was also a discussion of the fact that the Harbor Commission is not mentioned in our present charter. Also, the expenditure of money for those commissions is not defined.

The issue of the Town Solicitor's time was discussed with regard to summarizing legal questions. When we draft recommendations, should we review them with the Town Solicitor before presenting them to the Council?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Charter Commission Minutes

05 September 2001

Page 2

It was mentioned that Fred Clarke was not available this evening, but that he will come to a subsequent meeting. He worked on the drafting of the original charter in 1975 and on the later upgrade.

A question was raised but not clearly answered as to how long it has been that Council members only serve two years.

Sav asked for an update on our assignments.

Mike Swistak reported on his findings on Water and Sewer boards: our Council members sit as such. In Newport and North Kingstown, there is no separate board. It is simply under the direction of the Water Department, which reports to the Town Administrator and to the Council. In N.K. and Middletown, the Council handles it. Portsmouth and Tiverton have Water Districts, which control water fees, etc.. Tiverton is soon going to have a public sewer system.

In Jamestown, the Public Works Director is under the direction of the Town Administrator. With Water Districts, questions arose as to new sections - in town - who can vote for concerns - the whole town or just that section. Also, what grants the power to tax and spend? Sav mentioned that there was to be a meeting coming up as a workshop on the Wastewater Treatment plan.

We discussed whether what is going on now is adequate or should it be:

- elected

- a water district system

- appointed

- Council plus others

Research will be continued.

Peter Shocket reported on residency issues for all city and town employees. In West Warwick, all such must live in Town. In most Towns, this is not a requirement. His information was through Dan Beasley of the Rhode Island Office of Municipal Affairs. We discussed some issues, such as a recommendation that the Town Administrator definitely should live on the Island, but that the Finance Director could live off the Island. We have a problem in that the housing market has risen recently by 30%, which causing employees to have a problem finding affordable housing.

We discussed potential amendments. At present, our Town Administrator is the Finance Director in name only; the Deputy is the actual Director. We questioned the value to the exception clause and exception appeals. Sav has said that he will make copies of the residency requirements, general suggestions and Home Rule.

Charter Commission Minutes

05 September 2001

Page 3

Non-interference was considered. Council members cannot give orders directly to the Department heads. They must go through the Town Administrator, except for the "point of inquiry" in regard to serious investigating, hiring or firing, subpoena of witnesses, administering of oaths, and taking testimony. The point was made that it might be a good idea for Town Council members to be able to address concerns to individual Department heads such as problems with potholes or excessive lateness for a particular employee, etc. Council members feel that they would like to "chat informally" with Department heads. The Police Chief lets the Town Administrator know of problems discussed. North Kingstown permits formal communication. A suggestion was made that we delete the reference in section #210 mentioning investigations under #211. North Kingstown does it nicely.

We discussed plans for the Open Forum promotion. Sav will send a letter to invite the Department heads to the Open Forum on September 20th. We will put an ad in the paper and, possibly, contact Supt. Gallo so that Social Studies teachers could discuss the Charter and send flyers home with children to parents.

The notice for the Jamestown Press needs to be a bit more formal than the flyer. The Press has a list of all our meeting times and places. On the poster/flyer, suggestions were made to highlight the title "Charter Review Commission". Mike Swistak said he would speak with Dr. Gallo and Jerry Gorman, social studies teacher.

As to the spreadsheet. Some points are very obvious. We need to break the articles into sections. The meeting on September 20th will be open to public comment. Should we ask questions of the person who speaks or just let suggestions stand? After the public meeting we need to break down each article by issue.

Norma Willis will report our progress to the Council. The Council should hear what the public is thinking. She will invite Council members to attend the Open Meeting. The Town Administrator, the Council, and other Town Charter Review Commissions could be invited. Copies of the Charter are available at the Library or the Town Hall.

Norma mentioned comments that had been made to her regarding the Financial Town Meeting: "It's an Island thing unique to Jamestown." "We must be careful to consider reasons for keeping or eliminating the yearly meeting."

For our "homework": we need to consider which sections of which article to bypass and which to consider for revision.

A motion was made and seconded to adjourn at 8:40 PM, and so voted.

 

Charter Commission Minutes

05 September 2001

Page 4

 

Our next meetings will be as follows:

September 20 7 PM Library Conference Room

October 11 7 PM Library Museum Room

October 25 7 PM Police Station Conference Room

November 8 7 PM Library Museum Room

November 15 7 PM Police Station Conference Room

November 29 7 PM Police Station Conference Room

December 11 7 PM Police Station Conference Room

 

 

Respectfully submitted,

Nancy L. Mason

Nancy L. Mason

Secretary, C.R.C.

9/12/01