Minutes of the Meeting
Charter Review Commission
14 March 2002
The fourteenth meeting of the Charter Review Commission began at 7:15 P.M. in the Police Station Conference Room on Thursday, March 14th. All members were present except Peter Shocket.
Guests at this meeting were Bill Munger of the Water Study Commission and Fred Pease, former Town Council President.
Mr. Munger gave us a brief history of the water department. It was bought by the Town from the Davenport family, who ran it as a private enterprise. When it was purchased in 1969, there were only 2,900 people on the Island. The equipment was in poor condition and has needed constant repair and replacement. The Water Study Commission has helped to bring about many changes. We have a new water tower, upgraded the treatment plant, replaced water lines, and fixed and repaired both reservoir dams. The most recent accomplishment is a pipeline to pump water from the south reservoir to the north reservoir. At present it is pumping 500,000 gallons a day.
The Water Department has always been very politically driven. Lack of attention has caused the system to suffer and the users to suffer.
The Water Study Commission has been in existence for about seven or eight years. It is still somewhat politically driven, and those who serve on it have limited time to solve all itís problems. The Commission works through the Public Works Director, Steve Goslee, but the Council serves as the Board of Directors, meeting one evening a month. The Study Commission has helped to bring about two permanent wells, the pipeline, and studied the feasibility of a desalinization plant on a modified scale. They also have helped the Town to purchase open space, which has helped the watershed area.
Mr. Munger feels that the Town would be better served by a permanent Water Board. He suggested that the Board have five members, who would be water users on the system to advise the Council. It would focus on the management of assets and operations of the system. The water system is not paid for by the tax payers, it is paid for by the users.
The whole Town, however, has an interest in the watershed area and the open space near it. Wells drawing water from "the rock" affects 1,140 wells in the area of those not on the water system. A Board of Water Directors could keep an eye on the health of the water system. The main concern of Islanders should be conservation. Stress should be placed on using water, but not abusing itís use.
The Board of Water and Sewer Commission has, and would have, a separate account. It does not use Town tax money. The accounting system needs to be studied and improved. The users would manage the system by representation on the Board, and the Board would help to creatively solve itís problems, still serving under the direction of the Council.
Fred Pease spoke as a former Town Council member, and itís President, to the fact that the water situation uses a great deal of time of the Council operations. He also mentioned time constraints on citizens serving on volunteer committees and commissions, such as the water study commission.
When asked about the feasibility of moving Town elections from May to November to coincide with general elections, he saw the benefits of both. Financially, it might make sense, but for the good and concerns of local government, it would probably be better to keep it separate. He felt two year terms for Council people is a good idea, no increase or staggered terms necessary. He spoke in favor of the financial Town Meeting, and changing the fiscal year to July 1st through June 30th, to coincide with all other cities and towns of RI.
Mr. Pease brought up the subject of the Town Sergeant, which office he holds at present. He says it is not included in the Charter now, but should be. He presented us with an example from another Townís charter covering the subject.
He also presented us with a table of organization of Town government, as a guide to understanding the Townís organization.
Both men spoke in regard to concerns in the future, such as the Fire Chief being a department head, with reservations. The possibility of a Fire Department clerk was mentioned, as was the possibility of "swipe cards" in the future for a record of volunteer service.
After our guests left, we went on with our business meeting. A motion was made, seconded, and so voted to accept the minutes of the February 21st meeting as written.
We decided to present the proposed "start-up language removal" document and the proposed "gender and plurality changes" to the Council for their consideration.
We must remember that we are making suggestions for changes, not the actual wording. When we do present possible changes for consideration, we need to keep in mind when these changes might be necessary in the coming years.
A motion was made, seconded, and so voted that the Charter be reviewed within six years after itís approval.
Sav spoke of a recent visit to Philadelphia, the birthplace of our form of government, and a
visit to the Liberty Bell. He mentioned purchasing a "Pocket Book of the U.S. Constitution", a model to base our Charter on. He stressed that, over the years, only 27 amendments had been made to the Constitution. Ten thousand recommendations have been made, only 100 made it to the ratification process, and only 27 amendments have been accepted.
We should definitely consider the seriousness of our recommended changes to our own Charter.
For our next meeting we should review the list of recommendations of amendments and new additions and rate them on an ABC progression of importance.
Dates for our next meetings will be:
Motion made, seconded and so voted to adjourn at 10:30 P.M.
Nancy L. Mason
Nancy L. Mason