Minutes of the Meeting
Charter Review Commission
29 November 2001
The eighth meeting of the Charter Review Commission began at 7:10 pm at the Police Station Conference Room on Thursday, November 29, 2001. All members were present.
Two minor corrections to the minutes were made. The spelling of Nancy Kolman's new married name should be: Nancy Kolman-Ventrone. The second was in regard to the Harbor Commission. It should read: "Some members feel that" instead of "We feel".
Motion was made, seconded and so voted that the minutes should be accepted "as amended".
Sav presented us all with a letter from David Martin expressing his ideas with regard to the budget process of the Town, and the financial Town Meeting. A motion was made, seconded and so voted to accept his letter for consideration.
Nancy Kolman-Ventrone was present to represent the Personnel Board. The Board has three members - Nancy, Eric Lexow and Jeffery Brier. All have extensive experience in governmental policies, and personal experience in their occupations with personnel management.
Peter Shocket asked "why" and "how" the Board functions. Nancy explained that the Board is very active, but low key. They have met nine to ten times during the last year and have a good working relationship with the Town Administrator. They began working as a unit in September of 2000.
One of the projects they undertook was the salary structure of the Department heads. They worked with a Prof. Matt Bodah from U.R.I. on comparing Jamestown's salary structures with other municipalities. They discovered our Town Administrator was underpaid in comparison with other "like" communities. Our salary for animal control is sufficient. These were just two examples. This study was done in conjunction with the U.R.I. Schmidt Labor Studies Master's Program in 2000, utilizing graduate students. They received copies of salary structures from all over the country. The Board created evaluation criteria for the Town to use. They also received feedback from employees citing need for documentation of what were the expectations of their positions.
The Board also helps in writing job descriptions for employees. They meet on an "on call" basis with the Town Administrator when the need arises. They help to update lists of requirements for testing, monitoring, scoring, and sitting in on interviews as a personnel committee. They act as a "watch dog" and supervisor. They have no "hands on" in direct individual concerns with employees. As an example, if a Finance Director was needed, the
Board would place an ad in the papers, and then evaluate and oversee the process of selection. They operate under the direction of a Personnel Manual. They have no budget. They perform a service to the Town Council in relationship with the Town Administrator.
Items discussed in response to the question as to what the Board would like to see in the Charter were:
* salary surveys
* policy review
* qualifications reviews
* definitions of Department heads
* keeping minutes and records
* possible Human Resource Director
* concern of residency requirement (current feeling that we need the "best and the brightest")
The Personnel Board's next meeting will be in January, and Nancy will discuss their concerns in regard to the Charter as well as ours, and get a letter back to us.
Our next visit was with members of the School Committee - President Cathy Kaiser and Secretary Betsy Gooding. The Review Commission had no specific changes in mind. Mike Swistak asked about the budget policy and the possibility of a representative from the Town Council as a "liaison" with the School Committee. There was a brief discussion of the buildings and grounds, and the maintenance of the ball fields being shared with the Recreation Department. Cathy and Betsy both agreed that the cooperation among the School, Recreation Department and Public Works Department was quite respectable and successful.
In regard to length of service, Cathy felt the Charter is correct as it is in recommending service for four years. They did not feel it necessary to have a special clerk for the Committee. The Superintendent prepares and distributes packets to support the agenda of each meeting. The School Committee hires the Superintendent and supervises her. They feel that five (5) members are a sufficient number. They receive compensation. Betsy mentioned that she felt the School Committee should have a mission statement in regard to the fact that the Committee's major concern is "what is best for the children's betterment". "We need to turn out the best and the brightest".
A general discussion followed. In regard to Section 420 - Personnel, subsection(4) - can it be removed? We need to review it to see if it is appropriate.
Sav spoke with the Town Solicitor. A municipal court can only be issued to a Town by the State Legislature. Then it could be put in the Charter - as "the Town may have a municipal court".
Sav has received Charters from other Towns in keeping with our size. They include Exeter, West Greenwich, Little Compton, Foster, Charlestown, Block Island, Hopkinton and Richmond. All have Charters except Hopkinton and Richmond.
He also spoke with the Town Solicitor in regard to removing specific language in the Charter. The Solicitor will forward us an opinion.
Peter and Tom presented us with a gender review of the Charter, rewording some sentences to "make sense". We will start on this at our first meeting in January.
Our next meeting will be on December 11th, at the Police Station at 7:00 P.M. Fire Chief Art Christman will be present. We may discuss we "shall or may have a volunteer fire department". At some point, could we envision a hybrid version - paid and volunteer?
Sav will prepare an interim report of our progress for the Council. He will review our procedure of studying the Charter article by article and section by section. We made note of anyone who had concerns. We bypassed those we did not have concerns about. We built up a library of documents - letters from citizens, Charters from other Towns, and state administration forms. He will mention the open forum we held to get feedback from the community. He will review some of the concerns raised in regard to the Financial Town Meeting date and time, and the fiscal year. He remarked that we are advisors, not a policy making board. He will mention visitors from individual boards, with dates and names. We asked questions as to why material was put in the Charter, and the research we put in on it. Mention will be made as to topics being discussed and the "cleaning up and clarifying of language". Each member will receive a copy of the report before the Council meets on December 10th.
Motion made, seconded and so voted to adjourn at 9:45 p.m.
Nancy L. Mason
Nancy L. Mason
Secretary - CRC