By Ed Harris
The voters will have the final say on the proposed charter revisions, as the Town Council voted Monday night to place them on the November ballot.
“There are people on both sides that are passionate,” said Town Council Vice Chairman Peter Romano. “Leave it to the people to decide.”
Under the revisions, the Boards of Police and Fire Commissioners would become advisory only and the two chiefs would report directly to the town manager. In this scenario, the town manager would have the final decision on who was picked as chief.
There are three other proposed changes, to the division of purchases, transfers of appropriations and contracts for public works.
Once again, the revisions were moved based upon party lines, with the Republican majority on the council in favor. The Democrats, led by minority leader Chris Palmieri, felt the process was rushed and urged that the safety board revisions be sent back for further review.
“The agenda was set prior to the commission being formed,” Palmieri said. “Reanalyze [the revisions] and send them back so we can make an informed decision based on both sides of the issue, not one.”
The Town Council held a public hearing on the proposed revisions prior to its meeting Monday. Fourteen people spoke at the hearing, with about half supporting the changes. As was the case in past hearings, the proposal for the public safety boards was the most contentious.
Mary Baker, the Republican chair of the Board of Fire Commissioners, spoke in favor of the changes.
“I think with a manager overseeing the chief it is only going to add value to the town,” she said. “I think that’s the best way moving forward to serve the town.”
Sharon O’Brien, a Republican member of the Board of Police Commissioners, called the proposed changes “frivolous” and lacking no clear reason. O’Brien also took offense to people saying that the commissioners on the boards were not qualified to do their jobs.
“The current police and fire commissions should stay,” she said. “The commissioners on both our boards are qualified.”
The proposed charter changes will be placed on the November 5 ballot as separate items.