Charter Revision Commission
PUBLIC HEARING MINUTES
May 31, 2006
The legal voters of the Town of East Windsor are hereby warned that a public hearing will be held by Charter Revision Commission on Wednesday, May 31, 2006 at 7:00 p.m. at the Town Hall, 11 Rye Street, Broad Brook. Purpose of hearing is to take public comments on the revisions to the Town of East Windsor Charter. Copies of the proposed Charter are available at the Town Clerk’s Office and on the Town of East Windsor website.
I. Call Public Hearing to Order
Mr. Leborious called the public hearing to order at 7:15 p.m. at the East Windsor Town Hall, 11 Rye Street, Broad Brook, CT
Present: Richard Leborious, Chairman, Noreen Farmer, Joseph Roberts, Kathy Bilodeau, Ralph Saunders, John Parda
Unable to attend: Cliff Nelson, Edward Filipone
Mr. Leborious welcomed everyone to the public hearing and read the Legal Notice. Mr. Leborious then read the Preamble set forth at the beginning of the proposed Charter. He outlined that this set forth the principles that the Commission used as it went through the process of revising the Charter. Mr. Leborious then outlined the history of the Commission’s work to date, including the initial public hearing, the forum which posed provocative questions, the meetings with town officials, both elected and appointed, the regular meetings, all of which had public participation portions, as well as the fact that all of the regular meetings have been televised via cable. Mr. Leborious invited the public to speak, requesting that initial comments remain brief and that
individuals will be given the opportunity to speak again should they so choose.
George Butenkoff, 169 Wells Road
Mr. Butenkoff was against a seven (7) member Board of Selectmen. Initially it was three (3), now it is five (5) and he felt there was no reason for a seven (7) member Board, it would just create problems.
Mr. Butenkoff felt the Planning and Zoning Commission (PZC) should be elected. There is a problem with development in town.
There is no mention of the Justice of the Peace, which is an elected position.
Mr. Butenkoff felt going with a Town Administrator in East Windsor would present problems similar to those in East Granby. There are also problems in South Windsor and Manchester and it is not a good way to go. There is an increased cost involved, increase in taxes and Mr. Butenkoff believes in the Town Meeting/Board of Selectmen form of government. This form of government has worked since 1768 and it will continue to work.
Page 28, Section 7-25 – it should be “Historic” Preservation. Page 32 has an incorrect reference to time zones.
The referendum idea was a good idea, but Mr. Butenkoff expressed he did not like the requirement of 25% of voters required to vote – he felt this was a poor thing to put in. Either people vote to approve or disapprove of something.
Mr. Butenkoff felt the requirement for 200 signatures as outlined in section 11-5 was too much. The requirement for 20 signatures has never been abused or misused. He felt it should be left at 20.
In sum, Mr. Butenkoff gave the Revision a grade of an F-. If left the way it is he would give it a “no” vote.
Robert Lyke, 80 Rye Street
Mr. Lyke outlined that he attended the first meeting and he addressed the concern of overburdening residential development and the PZC would be more accountable if they were elected rather than appointed. He did not see a provision for elected PZC members in the draft Charter. Also the term limitations would be helpful with the process.
Mr. Lyke prefers to see the downsizing of government on every level – everything in the proposed Charter is upsizing, more control to more people, more salaries and a larger staff.
Mr. Lyke expressed displeasure with the 25% requirement for voting. He gave an example on a budget referendum – if there are 6,000 voters – and 1500 turn out for a vote on a budget – if 1499 vote to defeat the budget, and 1 votes to approve the budget – the budget would be approved as 25% of the voters did not appear.
Again, he emphasized the need to downsize government – he does not feel that 7, or even 5 members of the Board of Selectmen are necessary, it was all right when it was 3. The Town Meeting works well – East Windsor should continue that way.
Jim Richards, 43 Rockville Road
Mr. Richards started by indicating he agreed with what Mr. Butenkoff stated early in the hearing. A petition for town meeting requiring 200 signatures he felt was ridiculous. To convince twenty people to sign a petition is no small feat – and if there are 20 people in town who want a meeting, their point of view should be allowed. A Town Administrator is something maybe East Windsor could do in the future, but for now Mr. Richards felt it was too much power to a paid employee, one who is not elected. With the current size of the town, he felt it would be a mistake to change to that form of government.
Mr. Richards felt electing PZC members was a good idea, it is an important board.
The current number of Selectmen at 5 is working, they do a good job.
The requirement of 25% of the voters is like saying “must have this or else”. If someone’s votes does not count, then why show up.
Mr. Richards indicated that the revised Charter did not have a grade of F-. He complimented the Commission on its work to date. He does think the Commission needs to look at it again. Maybe in the future East Windsor can revisit having a Town Administrator – for now people are interested in keeping the same and the Commission should approach it from that point of view.
Bonnie Yosky, 7 Yosky Road
Ms. Yosky commended the Commission on the amount of work, but disagreed with the draft revised Charter. Ms. Yosky did not like the Town Administrator concept and felt it added another layer of government. It would also create a situation where another office was needed and more staff and there is no room at the current buildings to house an additional office and additional staff.
Ms. Yosky felt that if people take time to vote at a referendum, their vote should count. It was insulting to suggest that people can come to vote, but only if they agree with “what we want.”
She also mentioned she did not feel it was correct that no police officer belong to the Police Commission. It is like saying no teacher can belong to the Board of Education. If someone lives in a Town they have the right to participate on a town committee.
John Matthews, 169 Melrose Road
Mr. Matthews outlined that this document represents a change to the Town. The current form of government has been used for 200 years, if the Commission felt the town had reached a point to make such a change, obviously it must have found some problem with the system. Mr. Matthews indicated he did not attend earlier meetings, but he assumed the need for the change was discussed. 101 towns in Connecticut still operate on the Selectmen/Town Meeting form of government, which is a proven form of democracy. To go to a system, where there is no provision for referendum and to get a town meeting is requires an effort (200 signatures) seems significant. East Windsor is a small town of 10,500 people – what problem was present that directed the Commission to suggest a change to the Town
Administrator form of government?
Mr. Leborious responded that it would not be appropriate for him at this point to take away time from a public hearing and try to sum up 14 months worth or work by the Commission. But Mr. Leborious did take time to outline that the Commission had a unanimously voted on all of the changes thus far. The issues raised to the Commission over the course of their appointment were significant and the Commission was looking toward the future and the management of multi-million dollar budget. The Commission consensus was to provide a revised Charter that including a Town Administrator, whose increased cost in salary provides for savings in the town, not quantitatively, but through items such as lawsuit avoidance, grant application, etc. The Town reached a point regarding development
pressure where a Town Administrator can respond to what the town wants rather than trying to react to out of control development. Again, Mr. Leborious indicated this is not the time for the Commission to talk, but to allow an opportunity for public input.
Mr. Matthews felt a Town Administrator would have its own agenda, and would also need staffing.
Mr. Leborious did interject that there is no anticipated growth in staffing.
Mr. Matthews felt something like that, no anticipated growth in staff, needed to be documented.
Mr. Matthews outlined that a Town Administrator would have no authority over the Board of Education budget, which is 57% of the budget. A lot of the remaining pieces of the budget are fixed, i.e. salaries, contracted services, etc. Therefore only 20% of the budget would be under the auspice of the Town Administrator. If the BOE has $16 million, the town side is $12 million, of that amount $6 million is spoken for, a Town Administrator would only need to administer to $6 million portion of the budget. There is very little a Town Administrator could change. The Town is too small for a Town Administrator. The current form of government is the purest form of government, if East Windsor moves away from that, there will be more representation and the people have less to say.
Mr. Matthews agreed with the comments of the previous speakers. He is against the 200 signature requirement for Town Meeting, there is no provision for referendum instead of town meeting and he felt it was inconsistent that 2-3% vote at a town meeting counts, but a referendum required 25%.
Also he would like to see wording in Chapter 11 regarding extension to any sewer line, existing and as shown on the Plan of Conservation and Development, require a Town Meeting and be sent to referendum.
Scott Riach, 32 Windsorville Road
Mr. Riach thanked the Commission for the works its done to date. He did not feel East Windsor needed a Town Administrator. He has lived in Town all his life, he served his country and he has a college degree – anyone should be able to have the opportunity to take the challenge and, if elected, run a small town. There are several organizations which give help to newly elected officials. He did not feel East Windsor needed a Town Administrator.
Bonnie Yosky, 7 Yosky Road (additional comments)
If there is a Town Administrator will the First Selectman still received a salary?
Mr. Leborious outlined the First Selectman will be the policy leader for the town. The section on the First Selectman does provide for some additional power and there will be an allowance for some salary, but that is decided annually by the Board of Selectmen. Mr. Leborious said it is anticipated this will be a nominal amount, significantly decreased, for the time involved to attend government meetings and other items which are better suited to be done by an elected official more so than a paid administrator. Elected officials have important influence with other government agencies.
Lorraine Lafferty, 284 North Road
Ms. Lafferty has lived in Town many years farming and she does not like what she is seeing. East Windsor is too small to become a city and run by people who do not know or care about the Town and just want to fill their pockets.
Madilyn P. Thompson, 259 Rye Street
Ms. Thompson stated she is in 100% agreement with what Mr. Butenkoff stated. Converting to a Town Administrator, between the cost and the size of the Town, it is not a fiscally responsible thing to do. In the future, if the Town is big enough then maybe it will be more feasible to do.
Making the PZC elected should be a priority, in seeing where the Town is going. The education of the Town Administrator is not spelled out.
Mr. Leborious outlined that the Charter does not enumerate the specifics required of a Town Administrator, but that will be up to the Board of Selectmen to provide specific requirements for an Administrator, requirements that are in line with a smaller community rather than a large city.
Ms. Thompson also agreed that the Board of Education has the majority of the budget monies and the remaining portion, after salaries, is just a few million.
Mr. Leborious indicated that the money on the town side will be under the auspice of the Town Administrator, both properly administering it and properly accounting for it.
Robert Lyke, 80 Rye Street (additional comments)
Mr. Lyke recalled the last annual budget meeting and took a personal affront to the veiled threat “if the budget not approved there will be cuts across the board.” That is not what the Town is about and Mr. Lyke felt sorry for people who do not attend meetings because they fear retribution of some sort. It was not a warm and fuzzy feeling being spoken down to. With the Charter a lot of “Monday morning quarterbacks” have votes and there is a black curtain in the ballot box. If people do not speak up, there are groups that come out. Mr. Lyke indicated that the group C.R.E.W. (Concerned Residents of East Windsor) unanimously agreed to have Mr. Lyke advise that if this Charter goes on the ballot by the Board of Selectmen they will work vigorously against it.
John Matthews, Melrose Road (additional comments)
Mr. Matthews felt an issue is the basic problem of turn over in the Selectmen’s office. As Selectmen go through their term they gain experience, but initially there is a learning curve. In time the elected official does a good job and then it is time for a new individual to start the learning process. A Town Administrator would hopefully stay with East Windsor, but it could use the smaller town as a stepping stone to a larger town.
Mr. Matthews suggested that a newly elected Selectman could overcome the learning curve by being advised by a “grey beard” in Town. An individual who is paid a nominal amount to advise the newly elected official – it would provide continuity. This person is at the beck and call of the newly elected official, but does not vote or do anything administrative, this person is strictly advisory in nature. There are people in Town who could provide this continuity, even in terms of union negotiations, etc. If the basic problem is continuity of knowledge, this potential solution requires no additional staff and provides for someone with no agenda. It also provides for no revision to the Charter, just an additional budget item.
Kathleen Pope, 212 North Road
Ms. Pope stated she agreed with Mr. Lyke about the Town Meeting. They were not happy with the people in the front of the room with the use of threatening scare tactic. People were angry and left.
Mr. Leborious asked if there were any additional comments – hearing none, the public hearing was closed at 7:55 p.m.
Cynthia D. Croxford