Minutes of the Meeting
Charter Review Commission
07 February 2002
The twelfth meeting of the Charter Review Commission began at 7:05 PM in the Police Station Conference Room on Thursday, February 7, 2002. Rena Tyson, alternate, and Norma Willis, Council liaison, were unable to attend; all other members were present.
Fred Clarke, who had been a member of the original Charter Commission in 1974 and the Review Commission in 1984, was in attendance. He informed the Commission that a failed attempt to establish a Charter was made in 1952. He presented us with a portfolio of records and minutes of the procedures which were followed when he was on the Commissions. Copies will be made for our members.
North Kingstown and Portsmouth Charters were used by the original Commission as a guideline to develop ours. Theirs had been completed two years before our attempt
Before the Charter was developed the form of government was very political. The Town Council was the overseer of government operations; however, the Town Clerk at the time ran the everyday business of the town.
We discussed with him the question of a separate Water/Sewer Board, none of whom would be a member of the Town Council. This would free up the Council for other business. He also agreed that provision should he made for a long range planning commission.
He felt that there were too many committees and boards, and that the number of members could be reduced on many of these. People are suffering "burn out". Committees often become centered on self-interest concerns. Term limits on committees could be considered. Local government is getting complicated by state regulations. One of his big concerns was the effectiveness of the financial Town Meeting. He felt it had outlived its usefulness. Also of concern was the question of a separate Water/Sewer Board. Before the Charter, the Water Department was privately owned by the Davenport family. Mr. Ed Welch, Town engineer, had worked for the private company, and then the Town.
A suggestion was made that a Water Board could be elected or appointed with a Council liaison member. They would be bonded, set rates, make decisions as to water hook ups, make long range plans. The Town owns the watershed and the underground aquifer. Water is one of the most important issues to be considered in long range planning for the Island community.
Mr. Clarke's input and information were most helpful, and we appreciated his accepting our invitation.
Mark Liberati, a former Council member and former Charter Commission member, was also in attendance. He said that the Charter should be the basic background for the framework of the Town government. The Town Council runs the government and the Town Administrator sees that business is carried out properly.
He, too, felt that the financial Town Meeting had outlived its usefulness. It is an antiquated format. Local government has become a lot more complicated with contractual agreements.
He felt that the Council members could, and do, seem to handle the Water/Sewer Board effectively and there is no need for a separate Board.
A brief discussion ensued as to whether local elections were more effective by themselves in May or whether they would bring more people out in the state/national elections in November. Expense for two elections was considered, as was which election brought out more people.
Joe Tiexiera, former Fire Chief, Town Council member, and also Charter Commission member in the past, was in attendance. He seemed concerned with the effectiveness of many of the committees formed by the Council. Often, the Council does not seem to take the advice of the committees that they have appointed to study issues or proposals. He, too, felt that the Town Meeting had outlived its usefulness. He felt the fiscal year should be changed to coincide with the timing of af the other communities in RI (July 1 - June 30).
After our guests left, we carried on with routine business. The minutes of the last meeting had minor corrections in language and a motion was made, seconded, and so voted that they be accepted as amended.
The compiled work on the gender changes in the Charter was commended. A motion was made, seconded, and so voted to accept the gender changes as presented.
A plan was formulated to follow a similar process to remove the "start up language" as presented in the original Charter.
We then reviewed the articles and sections which we had considered as "candidates for changes", and added a few to the list presented by our chairman. We also scanned the possible new articles to be added to the Charter.
We also discussed the possibility of a document to present to the Council consisting of issues that might arise in the future which we did not include in our revision.
Mr. Munger will be visiting us at our next meeting, Thursday, February 21, to speak to us about a Water Board.
Our next meetings will be at the Police Station on the following dates:
February 21, March 14, March 28 (Thursdays) - 7 PM
April 9 & 23 (Tuesdays) - 7 PM
April 30, May 7 (Tuesdays) - 5 PM
At our next meeting, we need to start writing up our suggested changes.
A motion was made, seconded and so voted to adjourn at 10:00PM.
Nancy L Mason