Time for a redo: City Charter under review by citizens’ committee

— Marco is going back to the beginning looking to redraft the charter which set the groundwork for the city about 11 years ago.

“It’s typical for city charters to be amended about every 10 years. So that’s why we’re looking back at ours now,” said Monte Lazarus of the charter review committee.

Lazarus was on the original committee that drafted the charter in 1998 and plans to lend that historical perspective to the committee, which met for the first time Monday.

The committee members appointed by the respective City Councilmen include: Chuck Kiester’s appointee David Rush, Frank Recker’s appointee Larry Magel, Rob Popoff’s appointee Dick Shanahan, Ted Forcht’s appointee Jim Riviere, Jerry Gibson’s appointee Monte Lazarus, Wayne Waldack’s appointee Jack Patterson and Chairman Bill Trotter’s appointee Jose Granda.

The committee selected Riviere, also of the Planning Board, as chairman of the citizens’ committee. Magel, who serves on multiple city and county committees, including the city financial planning committee and county efficiency committee, was selected as vice chair, Monday.

City Attorney Alan Gabriel is working closely with the committee to assist in legal matters associated with amending the city charter.

“The proposed amendments to the charter will be instituted by ordinance and go out to vote,” Gabriel said.

That vote is likely to be taken during the next council election January 2010.

Areas the committee plans to discuss include expenditure limits or the city’s spending cap. This section of the charter was amended previously without going out to vote, resident Amadeo Petricca reminded the committee during public comment.

Currently the spending cap limits operating expenses to an increase from the prior year’s budget to 3 percent plus a cost of living adjustment. Originally, the spending cap was 3 percent plus COLA on actual spending, rather than budgeted expenses, from one year to the next.

The committee also plans to amend the city limits to include the most current boundaries and possibly allow boundary changes to be made in the future by amendments without going to referendum.

The committee plans to begin discussing the legislative and administrative powers at their next meeting. These sections set out the powers and responsibilities of the city manager and City Council.

Other sections for review include elections, referendums and recalls.

“Any section may be reviewed, these are just the preliminary focus,” Riviere said.

City Council direction to the committee based on their wishes for charter changes are expected in April.

The Ad Hoc Charter Review Committee is scheduled to meet 2 p.m., March 16, in the first floor conference room of City Hall, 50 Bald Eagle Drive.

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