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SACC Will Push For a Fall Vote on Proposed Charter Changes

Wilson, committee ready to recommend shift from Town Meeting to Town Council form of government.

According to Chairman Scott Wilson, has decided to present proposed changes to the current form of government to voters at the October Special Town Meeting.

"The committee has decided to keep it alive and to focus on the Town Council form of government," said Wilson.

Aug. 5 is the deadline to get the proposal on the October Special Town Meeting Warrant.The committee plans to invite Town Counsel Charles Zaroulis and to its meeting tonight (July 6) at 7 p.m. to determine the legality of the language in the document.

On July 12 at 6 p.m., the committee will invite selectmen to a working session to discuss line by line revisions to the draft charter, before the selectmen's meeting.

Wilson stated that the committee does not need the selectmen's approval to put its proposal up to a vote on the town warrant in October.

The three forms of government that have been  Representative town meeting consists of a pre-designated number of elected community members who vote on issues in town.

The town council format supports more meetings with a smaller number of people and far less citizen participation.  Committee member Richard O'Neil stated approximately seven council members would be elected to the council, which would replace the Board of Selectmen.

The committee has presented two drafts, one calls for changes to town charter while keeping the Open Town Meeting and the other plan is adopting a Town Council form of government.

Most of the committee members are comfortable with changing to a town council form of government and to allow voters a chance to decide in October if they want to make the change, said Wilson.

If the voters reject the town council at the Special Town Meeting in October, the committee could go back to the other proposal of keeping the open town meeting with less drastic changes to the charter.

Wilson stated that the committee is looking for a plan for the next 10 years and likes the model that includes election of the other boards. The traditional town council form of government would call for councilors to appoint those boards. The committee has been working to incorporate elected boards into a Town Council structure in a so-called "Hybrid Town Council" model.

Attached to this story are printable PDF copies of the Town Council Charter Draft, the Town Meeting Charter Draft and the SACC's public presentation from last month.

Kathleen Brothers September 01, 2011 at 03:21 PM
Thanks for bringing this article to us, Karyn. I find the whole article very interesting. I am glad that they are withdrawing this article. It is very important that every citizen understand what is written and what they are putting out there for consideration. Thanks to the committee for their diligence but this is a very important matter and IT should be right on the money. I am sure their finished product will turn out fine and then we can all vote on it. My advice, take your time and get it right......
Northguy October 04, 2011 at 05:36 PM
Don't they mean city council form of government? There is no such thing as a town council form of government in Massachusetts. Any municipality with a council is a statutory city and is recognized as such by the Commonwealth. Per Massachusetts law, municipal corporations with selectmen and town meetings are towns and municipal corporations with councils are cities. If anything is to change, the committee should consider a representative town meeting with a healthy membership. This preserves a town form of government while streamlining Town Meeting and, historically, is quite responsive to its constituents. Many towns in the area use this form quite successfully (Burlington, Billerica, Lexington, Winchester, Stoneham, Reading to name a few).
Bill Gilman October 04, 2011 at 06:38 PM
Hi Northguy, for better or worse, representative town meeting was examined in detail and the committee determined it wasnt suitable. They pointed to several towns that established that form of government but are now looking to switch, including several you named. As to a council making a town into a city you are incorrect. That question has been asked and answered and there is nothing legally that prevents Tewksbury from having a nine-member council and still being a town. So voters will have a clear choice ... open town meeting/Board of Selectmen or simply a nine-member Town Council.
Northguy October 07, 2011 at 09:07 PM
@Bill: Which towns that I named are considering changing to a city form of government? None that I can find doing a quick search. And I lived in one of those towns (I won't mention which) for a long time and the residents were quite happy with their system. It was efficient and responsive its residents needs (hint: this town has never needed to resort to a Prop 2 1/2 override). Also, again, the Massachusetts General Law (the chapter of which I can't remember off the top of my head) which spells out what kind of forms of government municipalities may choose does not recognize municipalities with city forms of government as towns. It recognizes them as cities. Also, the Commonwealth does not recognize minucipalities that have reoncorportated as cities as towns regardless of what they call themselves(Amesbury, Palmer, Winthrop, Weymouth, Barnstable to name a few) . Another thing, is that the Charter committee cites the example of Palmer, which adopted a city form of government a few years ago, but fails to mention that there is a movement there to re-charter it back to a town form of government because residents are not happy with the new charter. Tewksbury would be making a grave mistake by chartering itself into a city by choosing a city form of government.
Bill Gilman October 07, 2011 at 09:39 PM
I think you misread my last post. I did not say there were towns looking to change to a city. I said there were towns using the representative town meeting that were looking to drop it. Now, that might be to go back to open town meeting, I dont know. As for Palmer, you bring up an interesting point. There are in fact 12 communities in Massachusetts that are recognized as having a "city form of government" but still call themselves a town. For what its worth, Palmer has under 13,000 residents and certainly looks every bit like a town, save for the government style. Personally, I would contend that what makes a city or a town is much more than its dtyle of government. Take Framingham ... representative town meeting (at last check) and thus a town ... yet more than twice as many residents and far more urban than Tewksbury.

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