By Ed Harris
The Town Council has decided to open the charter, establishing a new Charter Revision Commission, following a strict party line vote Monday night.
All six Republicans voted in favor of the commission, while the Council’s three Democrats voted against it.
Five people were named to the commission, three Republicans and two Democrats. Each party selected the nominees, all received unanimous support.
The Republicans picked Brian Callahan, the current Republican Town Committee chair and former Town Councilors Andrew Meade and Bill DellaVechia. The Democrats chose former state Rep. Bruce “Zeke” Zalaski and Dennis Conroy, who has served on various boards and committees.
Town Council Chairman John Dobbins laid out the groundwork for the newly formed commission. He said the commission would hold its first meeting on Wednesday, April 3 and meet throughout April and May. Dobbins wanted a final draft in June, which would be followed by a public hearing.
Dobbins would like to have any revisions placed on the November ballot.
Town Councilor Chris Palmieri, Democratic minority leader, once again voiced his party’s opposition to the commission.
“I’m concerned with the timeframe,” Palmieri said, noting how the work of the Ordinance Review Committee has become drawn out. “Well laid plans don’t always work.”
Palmieri also questioned the agenda behind opening the charter, stating that while all topics should be under consideration, the commission has already been given direction ahead of time.
Two weeks ago, Dobbins said that he wanted the new commission to primarily focus on the public safety boards, more specifically the Boards of Police and Fire Commissioners. Dobbins said this could help the town’s operational efficiencies and also save money. Dobbins said that he would like to have the two commissions act as more as advisory boards that reported directly to the town manager.
Dobbins defended giving the commission some direction Monday night. “Past charter revisions have had no direction,” he said. “They have gone all over.”
Referencing state statutes, Councilor John Barry, a Democrat, said the removal of oversight from the police commission would dissolve the commission.
“I want a police commission,” Barry said, stating that the Republican wanted to get rid of the commission. “I want public oversight.”
Republican Councilor Cheryl Lounsbury rebuffed Barry, stating that the commission should be looked at to see if they are being run efficiently. She also brought up that the political appointees made up the boards.
“We have to make sure our town is run efficiently,” she said.
According to the town’s website both the Board of Police and Fire Commissioners are predominantly Republican. Both five member boards have four Republicans to one Democrat.