Discussions continue on proposed charter changes



The City Council and the Charter Revision commission met jointly on Tuesday, July 31, to discuss feedback received during the Thursday, July 19, public hearing.

The charter commission proposed changes to seven sections of the Charter: section 39, “to create staggered terms for the Board of Education members;” section 56, “to prohibit unlawful workplace harassment by elected and appointed officials;” sections 44 and 48A, “to remove responsibility for sanitary sewers from the Director of Public Works and assign it to the Water Department;” section 54, “to create an oversight personnel committee and change the Personnel Director’s title to Director of Human Resources;” section 25, “to re-name the joint board as the joint meeting and clarify the membership and types of bond obligations;” and, section 4, “to clarify the process and types of bond obligations regarding the issuance of bonds.”

City Clerk, Therese Pac explained that the charter revision commission will take the recommendations into their next meeting, slated for Tuesday, Aug. 7, and either accept or reject the changes. From there, the revised draft will come back to the council during their meeting, slated for Wednesday, Aug. 15, where the draft will either be accepted or rejected. If accepted, the draft will be sent to the Secretary of State.

During the public hearing director of public works, Walter Veselka, and Board of Public Works commissioner, Donald Padlo, spoke and were both opposed to sections 44 and 48A, moving the responsibility of sanitary sewers from public works into the water department.

Since the public hearing, Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu said she took the opportunity to do research, and found “nine municipalities that have combinations” of water and sewer.

“In Berlin, the water and sewer department are in one department and it’s called ‘Water Control;’ Bethel, it is called the ‘Utility Department’ and the water and sewer are in separate divisions under this one utility department; In Danbury, it is the ‘Department of Public Utilities,’ water and sewer are in one department;… Manchester, (it’s called) ‘Water and Sewer Department,’…; in Meriden, it is called ‘Meriden Utilities Department,’ (with) water and sewer… in separate divisions…”

She listed several other communities who also combined water and sewer operations under one department umbrella.

Discussion between the two boards continued and touched on such topics as, did the Charter Revision Commission complete their task? And, is this recommendation the best for Bristol? And, if this is the correct decision, how will the information be presented to the public?

Councilor Greg Hahn said he believes the charter revision “has done their job to bring it forward,” but thinks it would be “premature to have a firm decision on this until we have all of the information.”

“I think the second phase would be, let’s make sure that it’s good for the city. I wouldn’t even take into account how we’re going to present it to the town until after the decision is made to go forward or not. I think those are three different decisions, three different approaches, one should not have anything to do with the other…,” said Hahn.

No decision had been made at the meeting regarding the merging of sewers into the water department.

At the July 19 public hearing, Pac spoke regarding the staggering of terms for BOE members, saying there was information “missing with respect to notifying the party chairs, the nominations, and clarifying the two and four year terms.” She drafted language that was presented to the council members and corporation counsel which would differentiate if an individual was being nominated for a two year term or a four year term.

It  was decided that the language would be clarified.

Comments? Email tmurchison@BristolObserver.com.