Editor’s note: This is the first in an ongoing series exploring proposed changes to the town’s charter that will appear on November’s ballot. As an aid to voters, the New Canaan News will provide a series of in-depth stories breaking down each of the items that will appear on the ballot.

NEW CANAAN — The at times impassioned debate over whether or not the First Selectman should remain the Board of Finance Chair will soon shift from inside of Town Hall to the people of New Canaan at large.

After many months of deliberation and a rigorous Charter Revision Process, the Town Council voted unanimously at a Wednesday night meeting to approve the report of the Charter Revision Committee and accept the charter therein, and approved the submittal of five ballot measures - fate of the Board of Finance Chair included - to the electorate to be decided in the November general election.

“This is the charter, these are the rules people are going to live by and be governed by,” Chairman Bill Walbert said. “I think that in a closely contested discussion people should be able to decide.” In discussions over the topic in previous meetings, the Town Council had been nearly evenly divided on the issue. First Selectman Rob Mallozzi and all acting members of the Board of Finance had opined in favor of keeping the current system in place.

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The five ballot measures to be voted on, as worded in the Charter Revision Committee’s final report:

1.To approve the opportunity to vote for up to six Town Council members instead of only four during each biennial election.

2. To be consistent with the Town Charter provisions for the Town Council and all boards, commissions and committees, Board of Finance members shall be electors but are no longer required to be real estate taxpayers.

3. To allow Board of Finance members to vote annually for a chairman from among its regular members, not including the First Selectman who will remain an ex-officio member.

4. To update the Town Charter by Adding articles and provisions including the Audit Committee, Conservation Commission, Health and Human Services Commission, Inland Wetlands Commission, Ethics Board and Town Attorney, which are consistent with existing Town ordinances and operations.

5. To amend the Town Charter to reflect technical and conforming changes which clarify definitions, delete outdated references no longer applicable and update provisions to current practice.

Now approved for the general election, co-chair Steve Karl pointed out the questions that will appear on the ballot must be carefully drafted. He suggested the trio of town attorney Ira Bloom, Charter Revision Committee member Dave Hunt and Walbert carry out the process.

“We’ve hammered this thing for months and we all know what those questions should look like and, unless there’s some sort of crazy wording, I can’t see that, between the three of you guys, we can’t agree,” Karl said.

In addition to drafting the questions as they’ll appear on the ballot, as the general election approaches it will be the job of the town to elucidate on either side of each of the five measures.

“Somehow we have to educate the electors as to what the various issues are,” Penny Young said. “My feeling is that this is something of such import that the electorate needs to have some education.”

Among the strategies suggested was the distribution of a fact sheet, developed with the help of the League of Women Voters, and sent out by mail. Such a strategy would likely require a small stipend from the town. Publication of the measures online and in local newspapers was also suggested by Kathleen Corbet, the latter of which the Town Council is required to do, Bloom said, according to Connecticut General Statutes.

“Not later than 30 days after approval by the appointing authority... the proposed charter should be published in full at least once in a newspaper having a general circulation, or the portion of the charter amended should be published at least once in a newspaper having a general circulation,” Bloom said.

In addition, John Engel suggested that a debate be scheduled in which representatives on either side of each of the five issues are selected to discuss the matters publicly. Such an event, Young said, is being scheduled by the League of Women Voters.

For the full text of the accepted Charter, visit newcanaan.info

justin.papp@scni.com; @justinjpapp1