The Charter Commission has been meeting weekly and has scheduled an extended session for Saturday, November 21 from 9 am to 2 pm to work on the details of the charter, including the administrative structure of town government and the recall provision.
To date, the Commission has agreed on the basic structure of town government.
The Commission is recommending a 7 member Town Council, elected at large for staggered three year terms as the town legislature, replacing the open town meeting. This will provide the town with a transparent, yet responsive legislature that will permit residents to provide input on issues but be able to respond to issues in a more timely manner.
It is also recommending a strong Town Manager, appointed by the Town Council as the town executive, replacing the Board of Selectmen. With more than 16,000 residents and a town budget of more than $50 million, the Commission feels that the town needs strong, professional management.
Finally the Commission is recommending that all town boards, committees, commissions and other bodies, including all those which are currently elected (except the School Committee) be appointed, with either the approval of the Town Council or subject to its veto. The School Committee will still be elected. The Commission reached this decision in order to better centralize the government and to encourage cooperation between departments which currently consider themselves to be independent of each other.
The Commission is now working on the administrative structure, including the possibility of creating a Finance Department and a Human Resources Department. It has agreed to include a recall provision for elected officials, but has not yet worked out the wording of this due to the need to make sure that it is consistent with state law.
The Charter Review Commission is rapidly reaching consensus on the proposed form for a new town government. It has decided that the legislative branch will be a seven member town council elected at large. This will replace the open town meeting. There is a consensus that the executive branch will be a professional town manager appointed by the town council. The details of the town manager's powers and duties remain to be worked out.
Members on the Commission have met with representatives of the governments of Wilbraham, Longmeadow, Easthampton, Palmer, Ludlow, Sturbridge and South Hadley.