New Canaan readies itself for audit committee, new code
Published 3:19 pm, Wednesday, September 12, 2012
New Canaan's finances have come under scrutiny several times in the past few years. To some, it may seem as if things are mismanaged. To others, it may seem that much ado is made about nothing. Most recently this dynamic was seen with the Jeb Walker pension flap.
But what many can agree upon is that the more information available, the better. With that mindset, the Town Subcommittee on Bylaws and Ordinances is planning to create a permanent committee to audit the finances of town projects, in accordance with the recommendations of the Town Council Subcommittee on the Lakeview Avenue Bridge project.
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At the Sept. 6 meeting, the Bylaws and Ordinances Subcommittee discussed how many people should be on the audit committee; how many of those on the committee should be in town government and how many should be private citizens; what kind of minimum or maximum political party representation should be mandated; and what the expertise of those on the committee with financial matters should be.
"There may not be two or three people on Town Council that are financial experts. I have an MBA, and I'm not a financial expert," Councilwoman Kit Devereaux said at the meeting to demonstrate the complexity of the issue.
The purpose of the committee would be to look into matters the Town Council might want to have financially reviewed in the future. Chairman of the subcommittee, Councilman Steve Karl, said such matters may include issues such as the Lakeview Avenue bridge project or the recent pension payment issue.
"Those issues where you're getting really deep into the weeds, we want professional oversight there in the town. When things like this happen, you want a credible and qualified source to go to."
The Bylaws and Ordinances Subcommittee will discuss both issues further at its next meeting either Wednesday or Thursday next week. Plans are also under way to revise New Canaan's constitution, known as the Town Code.
The subcommittee discussed the process of reformatting and trimming out-of-date chapters of the code, which was originally published in 1965, though some ordinances date much earlier.
One of the obsolete chapters, Chapter 20, regulates the construction of fallout shelters built in the event of a nuclear war, and dates from 1961. The code states that ceilings of fallout shelters must be at least 6 feet, 6 inches high and must be at least 80 square feet in area. Other proposed changes involve the sequencing of the chapters and a change from a small, thick book to a larger 8 ½ by 11-size book.
Karl said streamlining the dense and thick Town Code is a priority of his.
"I took on this job and said, `I'm not going to make this book any thicker than it is. For any new additions to the code we'd like to also be taking stuff out,' " Karl said.
Karl said that there is no strict timeline for the revision of the code, but that they hope to have it done within the year.
A town code consulting firm was brought on at the cost of about $8,000 to assist with and facilitate the process of recodification. General Code is a Rochester, N.Y.-based company that exists solely to assist towns in recodification of their town codes. With the tagline "Information made civil," it has been in business for more than 50 years.
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