Minutes of the Meeting
Charter Review Commission
11 December 2001
The ninth meeting of the Charter Review Commission began at 7:05 P.M. at the Police Station Conference Room on Tuesday, December 11, 2001.
There were two changes made to the minutes of the last meeting - November 29 - One was the spelling of Matt Bodah's name - his name ends with "h", not "k". The sentence in the paragraph regarding the study done - can strike "it was a most pleasant experience". The next sentence should end after the phrase "all over the country". The next sentence should read - "The Board created evaluation criteria for the Town to use". Motion made, seconded, and so voted that the minutes be accepted as amended.
Fire Chief Art Christman stated that the Fire Department is incorporated by a Charter from the state. The Department does submit a budget to the Town. The Chief and the Town Administrator have worked closely on the problem of number of volunteers available for rescue runs. On an emergency call, the Fire Department Rescue Crew responds, evaluates, and starts life support systems. The Ambulance Crew then continues life support and transports the patient to the proper health care facility. The Chief likes to keep the Rescue crew and vehicle on the Island whenever possible. His Rescue crews are highly trained and certified in life support. It is a "tight group" and they work well together.
Mr. Christman said he can't see that there should be any significant change in the Charter in regard to the Fire Dept.. The Chief is not a Town employee or Department head. He is also a state-certified Fire Marshall. He is a volunteer. Sometimes he works 22 hours a day during an emergency. He does what he must do. He has no secretary.
To be a volunteer fire fighter, the member must work here or live here. There are 65 members of the Fire Department, all volunteers. The Chief receives a stipend and the dispatcher is a paid position.
The Chief presents a budget to the Town. The Town does not tell the Fire Department how to spend their monies. They replace equipment as necessary. Expenses are matched to the budget items.
The Department does receive donations. These donations have been used recently to buy chemical gear, hazard suits, air packs, as well as paper towels, soap, detergent and schooling of E.M.T.s and fire fighters. The Department has received grants from the Champlin Foundation.
Their Department also has a Capitol Improvement fund in the Town budget. It was mentioned in the future (10 - 20 years): could the Department be a paid service? The Chief cautioned that the Department should be left as it is in the Charter - don't change it, don't rush it. Should we eliminate the word "volunteer"? The answer for now was "no". Our volunteers put in other hours other than emergency calls. There is a Fire Academy, Thursday night training programs, and E.M.T. training three nights a week and some Saturdays.
The Chief appreciated the chance to speak to the Committee, and we found his input valuable.
We then welcomed Rob Lambert of the Planning Board. Dennis Webster was also in attendance. Rob has been on the Board for three years. He was asked to comment on the Charter as it stands in regard to Planning and Zoning.
He spoke in regard to section 703 - Qualifications. At their meetings , the Town Planner and her assistant are in attendance, not usually the Town Administrator and the Public Works Director. The Committee works as a technical review committee. They work with the Fire Chief, Police Chief, and Public Works on subdivision plans. The inter-relationship between the Town Planner and the Planning Commission should be stated.
It should state in section 421 that the wording should say: "There shall be a Town Planner", changing may to shall. Without the Town Planner, the Commission would be overwhelmed with work. No community should be without a Town Planner. The Planner is invaluable in securing grants.
In regard to section 704, number (4) - the filing of reports with appropriate agencies was brought up. The Planning Board is an advisory board to the Council. The Council receives summary reports from the Commission.
Recently, the Commission has been concentrating on the Town's Comprehensive Plan update for the state. In 1988 the state mandated that every town in RI must have a comprehensive plan, which should be upgraded every five years.
Most Towns our size have five members on the Planning Commission. Are nine (9) members too many on the Board? Dennis Webster said they never lack a quorum. Seven members might be alright, with two alternates.
Back to number (1) under Section 704: "master plan" should be changed to "comprehensive plan".
The Commission meets twice a month. Four year terms may be too long. Three years may be better. Term limits were not recommended. Reappointments can be made by the
Council. How a member could be removed from this or any other Board could be covered in a new conflict of interest statement, such as that presented by Norma as presented by the State Ethics Commission. We need an opinion from the Solicitor in regard to any member obstructing the functioning of any Board.
The question was raised as to whether there should be an ordinance to tell how the Planning Commission operates.
After our "visitors" left, we had a general discussion in regard to the gender change report by Peter and Chief Tighe. We will start with this at our first meeting in January.
Our chairman spoke with the Town Solicitor regarding transition language in the Charter. It is a matter of style. It could possibly read better without some references to the first Charter. He spoke with him about the Zoning Board, state representatives working for the Town, school teachers serving on the Council, conflict of interest clause wording, and the process of amending ordinances. We should prepare a list of questions for the Town Solicitor, and invite him to speak with us on specific questions.
Sav presented us with the paper directing the "Policy and Procedures for Access to Public Records in the Town of Jamestown". We also received a paper regarding "Small Town Factoids" - population and registered voters. We also received general census information regarding towns and cities of Rhode Island.
Each of us chose a Charter of a town similar in size to Jamestown to review and comment on for next meeting.
We also had received a letter from Mary Hutchinson regarding suggestions as to length of terms and the possibility of staggered terms for the Council. It was voted to accept the letter for consideration.
We discussed having members of previous Jamestown Charter Commissions attend a future meeting to answer questions as to why they put certain things in the Charter, and what they might like to see done.
We discussed the fact that the Charter says that the Town should have a Financial Town Meeting, but the time and date can be changed by ordinance of the Town Council. It was suggested that we have an open forum regarding the scheduling of the Town Meeting. A mention was made of a possible phone survey of residents in regard to the meeting. Possibly this could be done under the direction of a professor from U.R.I..
Future discussions should include the Water and Sewer Board forming a separate board from that which is now part of the Council's responsibility. Many public comments have expressed the need for more citizenry input.
A possible addition to the Charter could be a Licensing Board to deal with victualizing and liquor licenses. This would relieve the Council of some routine matters to concentrate on more pressing issues. The Council should act as a Board of Directors to see that the Town operates effectively and efficiently.
Our next meeting will be held on January 3, 2002 at the Police Station. Future meetings will be held on January 24th, February 7th, and February 20th, 2002.
Motion was made, seconded, and so voted to adjourn at 10:07 pm.
Nancy L. Mason
Nancy L. Mason
Charter Review Commission