WATERTOWN — The Town Council held a public hearing regarding the Charter Revision Report on Tuesday, June 16.
Charter Revision Committee Chair Robert Kane noted that the report filed with the town clerk was available for public review and that the council could accept or reject the changes presented by the committee in whole or in part.
The revision process had started last June with meetings held twice a month until the pandemic shifted meetings online.
The committee discussed the charter and updated outdated language and monetary figures.
During their deliberations, town department heads met with the committee to describe their work as it related to the charter.
The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities shared documents and processes to inform the committee’s work, including salary information for town government employees.
“I believe it was a fair, open, transparent process,” Mr. Kane emphasized, adding that all meetings were warned and minutes published, with public participation at each meeting, and two public hearings to gather feedback.
He added that Attorney Franklin G. Pilicy had provided good legal advice.
When Town Council Chair Tom Winn opened the meeting to public participation, several residents commented on the question of changing the town form of government.
There were no comments directed toward the charter revisions as suggested by the committee.
Mr. Winn explained that the secretary of state had shared relevant statutes with the town and Town Attorney Paul Jessell was researching how the secretary’s response applies to Watertown.
Mr. Winn said he did not want to discuss the possibility of a question appearing on the ballot until it was determined that the question could legally be part of a referendum.
Mr. Kane responded that the committee had taken a look at several Connecticut towns as part of the revision process, referring to a case study describing Hamden that had advocated the use of a town manager to improve the problems faced by that town.
He believes the Charter Revision Committee spent sufficient time to examine the issue and felt the report is ready for review and the next step in the approval process. “I believe in this report and I believe in my commission.”
Council member Zaiga Antonetti questioned the necessity of waiting 10 years to update the town charter, suggesting that a petition could initiate a review in a year or two.
She also questioned if this was the right time to undertake such a complex task as changing government given the pandemic, unemployment, and unstable business environment.
She pointed out that residents cannot meet in person to debate the issue and recommend the question appear on the ballot as an advisory question.