Minutes of the Meeting
Charter Review Commission
15 November 2001
The seventh meeting of the Charter Review Commission began at 7:03 p.m. at the Police Station Conference Room on Thursday, November 15, 2001. All members were present.
There was a discussion of the minutes of the November 8th meeting. A draft copy of the minutes had been made available to the members, as the secretary's notes had not been completed in typed form.
In the note in reference to the conversation with the Town Solicitor and the process by which the Financial Town Meeting can be changed, it should read that - "The Council can vote to change and/or amend the Financial Town Meeting. It can be legislatively changed by the Council".
In reference to Section 419 - The sentence should read - "Our deputy finance director does not live in Town. Strike out "therefore" & the remainder of the sentence. It should then continue with the next two sentences.
Section 417 - Note should be made after Chief Tighe's opinions were expressed, Peter stated that he felt that the residency requirement for the Chief was not, and should not be mandatory.
On page 2 of the draft minutes it should read - in the second sentence - "Some members of the Town Council", instead of "The present Town Council". Also, at the end of that paragraph, instead of "a summer date", it should read "an early June date".
Motion was made, seconded and so noted that the minutes should be accepted "as amended".
Sav introduced Dick Alphin of the Zoning Board of Review. Dick kindly puts all of our information "on the Web" so that it is readily available to the public.
The amendments to the September 20th, 2001, meeting, as pointed out by Dick and Sav, were voted to be approved.
In regard to Sections 705 and 706 pertaining to the Zoning Board of Review, Dick presented us with Article 5 of the Zoning Board of Review. The Board consists of five members and three alternates, who can sit and actively participate in hearings. The Board meets once a month unless by special exception an extra meeting is required or requested in addition to the regular monthly meeting.
Four out of five members or alternates must vote to approve an issue before the Board. The zoning board is a quasi-judicial Board. The five members voting on an issue must have heard the discussion on a case from it's beginning. There are usually seven or eight Board members, including alternates, at every meeting. People usually come to the Zoning Board with an issue rather than the Planning Board unless the issue is of general concern to the Town as a whole.
The Planning Board meets twice a month. It has nine members. Questions were raised as to the necessity of this many people. The Chair is asked to invite members of Planning to a subsequent meeting.
Dick also noted that issues considered by the Zoning Board include:
* variances and special uses
* appeals to the Building Inspector (which require only a 3-2 vote)
* appeals to the state building code
Comments were made regarding the fact that our Town government is here to serve the people of the community. We are lucky to have a large percentage of our population of 5,600 people who are willing to volunteer to fill the positions on various committees and boards. As a relatively small community, we have a smaller number of people from which to draw.
Norma commented that being a democracy indicates that people are willing to volunteer. That fact helps in building a community.
Section 418 - Sav spoke to the Town Solicitor regarding the Fire Department. The state allows the Fire Department to be separate from the Town government. It had an operating Charter of incorporation. They have to have a budget. The Charter states that "the fire department shall operate under the same budget constraints as every other department". Some comments were made that, in some cases, the Town "seems to have no say over how the money is spent". Sav said he has invited the Fire Chief to attend our December 11th meeting. The Chief has accepted his invitation.
We had an informal discussion of our thoughts on the Fire Department. Mike said that Fire Chief Art Christman believes his position is as a "full time volunteer".
When we present our concerns to the Council regarding the Fire Department and what should be included in the Charter, we should put it in this manner:
"Here are our concerns - the things that should be addressed".
Should the section say - "There may be a volunteer fire department" instead of "shall be"?
A brief discussion followed on the possibility of a paid fire department some time in the future.
Art will attend the meeting on December 11th. Mike will come up with a list of suggestions and questions. We might review the charter requirements of other Towns in RI.
Sav said that he had spoken with the Town Clerk, who has sent letters requesting copies of charters from all cities and towns in RI. We can review these for possible suggestions.
In reviewing several of the charters, it was discovered that not every Town has a Municipal Court. The Council could consider having such a Court.
Mike will get a copy of the Fire Department's Charter of Incorporation. He will also check other charters for emergency services clauses.
Chief Tighe spoke to Sue Brayman in regard to the Tax Assessmant Board. She had mentioned the possibility of increasing the number of people on the Board from three to five. Ann Livingston, a member of the Board, says three usually works. Only two communities have mor than five members. Possibly, we could have three members and two alternates.
In talking with Fred Brown, the Building Inspector, his opinion was in regard to Section 408 and 409, that we should not consider eliminating the minimum housing inspector. Other than residency requirements, these sections are sound as they are.
Section 410 - Chief Tighe said our last Town Engineer was Dick Zimmerman. The Town has been contracting out for an engineer depending on the type of survey (i.e.: coastal ).
Leave this in, do not remove it. In several situations, our Public Works Director serves as the Town Engineer in water and sewer projects.
Section 417 - In reviewing Newport and Middletown policies in regard to testing for the Police Department:
* Newport - 5 points - 5 yr. residency
* Middletown - 10 points - 5 yr. residency
In regard to the personnel on the Police force, the Chief sets criteria for requirements for hiring. Does the Jamestown Charter need details such as Newport's under qualifications for eligibility on the police force?
Section 420 - We will put off discussion on the Personnel Board until we can get Nancy Kolman-Ventrone to come to our meeting, as a representative of the Board.
Section 421 - Again, the wording came into question - "There may", should read -
There shall be a Town planner". Could we have a grant writer or a grant writing board?
Norma thinks the Town Planner is part of a broad-based constitutional document.
ARTICLE V - Schools
Reference to language of - "Except that in the election of 1975, the two candidates with the greatest number of votes will be elected for a six year term". This could be removed from the paragraph.
We will have Fire Chief Christman at our Dec. 11th meeting. We will try to have Nancy Kolman-Ventrone to talk about the Personnel Board on November 29th, and Cathy Kaiser and other members of the School Committee at the same meeting. We will aim for a half hour for each Board:
* 7:15 - Personnel
* 8:00 - School
Sections 601 & 602 - Okay as is.
Sections 701 - 709 - Hopefully, Rob Lambert will be available to discuss Planning and Zoning issues on December 11th.
Section 804 - We should have a "conflict of interest" statement which can be standardized to fit all situations. It could be in Article I - "Basic Provisions" - Section ( ). Could refer back to conflict of interest as defined in Section ( ).
Section 801 - We need to speak to the Town Solicitor regarding the section of "dual office holding".
The Town Administrator was given a raise because she was covering both the office of Town Administrator and Finance Director. This drew us back to Section 419 - "There shall or may" - be a Department of Finance headed by a finance director.
Some members feel that the Harbor Commission should be written into the Charter. It is under an ordinance now.
In regard to members on committee - nine members may be too many on the Planning Board, and ten members too many on the Harbor Commission.
Committees are created as a service to the people of the community, but they serve the Town Council. The Council is looking at length of terms for members on each committee. The members should represent the public's interest, not personal agendas. The Council should be given ample time to be notified of upcoming vacancies on Boards - at least 45 days before a new appointment is made. It is the Chairperson's responsibility to notify the Council.
We have discussions of the Water and Sewer departments coming up. We have to consider things we might want to add to the Charter.
We will prepare interim reports to the Council, but we should definitely be done by the end of March 2002. Hopefully, it can be put on the ballot for consideration in November 2002. If not, possibly May 2003.
Changing the fiscal year takes time and costs money. There would have to be a process "to bridge a loan".
Motion was made, seconded and so voted to adjourn at 9:40 p.m.
Nancy L. Mason
C.R.C. - Secretary