BERLIN – The town is in the process of revising its Charter to bring it up to speed with current state statutes.
Amendments proposed by the Charter Revision Commission would impact Board of Education appointments and the Berlin Visiting Nurses Association (VNA), among other areas.
Town Attorney Jeffrey Donofrio shared the commission’s report at the last Town Council meeting.
“A lot of this has to do with best practices, codifying in the Charter practices that may or may not already be in place or should be in place,” he said.
Several financial and operational changes proposed came by request of Town Manager Arosha Jayawickrema and Town Finance Director Kevin Delaney, to address outdated procedures.
One of the provisions looked at was in Section 2.8 of the Charter, which provides for the election of the Board of Education exclusively by petition.
While many other towns elect their school boards through political committee nominations, Berlin candidates have traditionally petitioned voters for their seats.
“The proposed change would move it to a statutory method,” Donofrio said. “If someone wants to petition their way onto the ballot they would still have the opportunity to do so, but the expectation would be that the town committees would nominate candidates.”
Another revision would clarify how vacancies in town boards and commissions are handled, so that seats are filled by their original nominating party, even if a departing individual switched his or her party affiliation during their term.
A change to Section 3.8 would increase the town’s maximum purchase without Council or Board of Finance approval from $10,000 to $25,000 or more, in line with the current threshold authorized by the state.
The next change would affect future town managers, removing the condition that they must live in Berlin and requiring only that they live in the state.
Another change would give the Town’s Registrars of Voters the authority to hold referendums at a single polling location, versus all three.
“The idea was…given the turnout, expense and challenges…this gives registrars a chance to simplify things,” Donofrio pointed out, adding that both registrars must be in agreement.
Finally, a move away from the town’s reliance on the Berlin VNA was proposed.
“As you know there’s been considerable discussion about the Berlin VNA,” Donofrio said. “What alternatives and options are available to on one hand, provide the high-quality, responsive service that Berlin residents have come to expect and enjoy, while on the other hand eliminate the financial burden the deficit continues to pose to taxpayers.”
The suggested provision “sunsets” the VNA, so the town can evaluate its need and explore other means of providing nursing services to the public. If this change moves forward a new chapter will be added to the Charter to detail transitioning VNA services to another provider.
A public hearing on the Charter Revision has been set for July 12. Elected officials will listen to public input and decide how to proceed with changes before the final draft is sent to referendum in Nov.
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at email@example.com.