Charter review panel sets goals
The expansion of the Board of Selectmen from three to five members is just one of the changes a new commission reviewing the town charter may take on.
Members of the charter review commission were sworn in last week at their first meeting and are working to compile a list of recommended changes to the town’s governing document by April which would ultimately be on the ballot on Election Day 2016.
The 10-member body also voted unanimously to make John Hetherington, a former state representative from town, as their chairman and to hold a public hearing at 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 21, at New Canaan Town Hall, 77 Main St.
In addition to Hetherington, the group includes Republicans Dave Hunt, Kate Hurlock, Russ Kimes, Rich Townsend, and Penny Young and Democrats Kathleen Corbet, Kit Devereaux, Mike Franco, and Sally Hines.
“I’ll think we’ll start to get an indication soon of what issues are getting a head of steam,” Hetherington said. “I’m also going to try to encourage the heads of boards and commissions to come up with proposals that will help their board or commissions function.”
Among the changes the group might deliberate on would be expanding the Board of Selectmen from three to five members; extending the terms of selectmen from two to four years; whether members of the finance board should be elected, and if the Town Council should be able to increase budget appropriations. Currently the council can only cut from budgets.
Abolishing a requirement to publish government notices in print publications is also expected to get consideration, officials said over the summer.
Steve Karl, vice chairman of the town council and head of the body’s bylaws and ordinances committee that selected the roster of members, said more than 40 names were under consideration to serve on the group.
Karl said changes to the structure or powers of town boards and commissions, especially the town council and finance board in relation to approval of town budgets, should get careful scrutiny to avoid red tape.
For example, Karl said he feels the presence of the first selectman presiding over most Board of Finance meetings as an ex officio member makes the town’s budget review process more efficient.
However, Karl said some people think the first selectman’s role on the board gives him too much influence, Karl said.
“From my personal perspective I think that things are going pretty well with the way the town government is set up with the executive and legislative branches,” Karl said. “… Many towns and governments in the state are envious of New Canaan and our government because we seem like we can get things done more expeditiously in the town. So we need to think long and hard about changes.”
Commissioners decided they will establish a regular meeting schedule with a frequency of about twice a month.