|LONGMEADOW Just over a year ago the town's voters handily approved Longmeadow's first Home Rule Charter. This charter is now the basic law by which we govern ourselves. It replaces numerous state rules and regulations which applied for years until we defined our own. |
What follows is a list of changes in town government which are mandated by our Charter and a summary of the progress we have made thus far to implement these mandates.
Select Board membership is to be increased from three to five members to encourage diversity in discussion and deliberation of issues. In a special election in October, 2004 we elected two additional members, Kathy Grady and Bill Scibelli, to the Select Board.
A Town Managers position is to be created to be the chief operating officer of the town. Robin Crosbie was appointed Town Manager by the Select Board and started work March 1, 2005. Currently she is leading the efforts to consolidate many town service groups into three major units; a Finance & Administration Department, a Department of Planning & Community Development and a Department of Public Works.
An Audit Committee is mandated to support town government efforts to comply with all laws and regulations by which the town is governed and to instill accountability, integrity and efficiency in the financial operations of the town. In April, 2005, the Select Board unanimously approved the Charter Transition Team's position paper which describes the role and duties of the Audit Committee. Five persons, Paul Adornato, Larry Eagan, Mike Giampietro, Peter Landon and Emanuel Wenig were appointed to the Audit Committee by the Select Board after open interviews; Ned Steiger and Ernest Welker were appointed as associates. This Committee is developing its work plan.
A By-laws Review Committee is mandated to update the town's by-laws to comply with the Charter. Scott Bush, Mike Kallock, Sandra Metz, Roger Nadeau, Dean Rogeness, Ned Steiger and Becky Townsend were appointed by the town moderator to this Committee in late 2004. Existing town by-laws impacted by the charter were revised to comply with the Charter. A new by-law describing an open process for selecting future appointed board and committee members was added as mandated by the Charter. The revised by-laws were approved by vote of the town citizens at the May, 2005 town meeting. Town by-laws are now in compliance with the town Charter.
A Rules Committee of five members is mandated to recommend to the Town Moderator changes in town meeting practices which could improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our town meetings. Diane Nadeau, Joe Occhiuti, John Pearson, Jim Ryan and Eleanor Stolar were appointed by the town moderator in the fall of 2004 and, among other changes, have recommended revising the timing of future town meetings to facilitate attendance and the handling of related town business.
A new Finance and Administration Department was mandated to consolidate several town service units into one to achieve the benefits of scale and the sharing of equipment, systems and staff. The Town Manager and Acting Finance Director Paul Pasterczyk are working with the Superintendent of Schools Scott AndersEn to integrate certain support staffs from both organizations which do similar service work into a single unit to provide a one source of financial, purchasing and personnel expertise to support all town services. Budget changes were approved at the June, 2005 town meeting to reflect a consolidation of town business system employees, the start up of a human resources department and funding of a procurement specialist.
The consolidation of water and sewer, parks and recreation, and certain school and public works maintenance services into a new Department of Public Works is mandated. One key to establishing this DPW organization is the appointment of a department superintendent who is experienced in managing a service unit of this broad scope. Michael Wrabel has been selected from many applicants for this job by the Town Manager and confirmed by the Select Board as our DPW Superintendent. He brings important experience from having been director of public works in the towns of Windsor Locks and Simsbury, CT. Mike started July 5.
The establishment of a new Department of Planning and Community Development, responsible for coordinating and guiding the safe, healthy and economic development of the town is called for. In June, 2005 the Town Manager designated the Building Commissioner's office as the town's Office of Planning and Community Development. This office is now our first point of contact for all planning and zoning matters, as these functions are integrated and coordinated as part of Charter implementation
The Water and Sewer Department is to be dissolved by December 1, 2004 with supervisory and oversight duties to be assumed by the Select Board and maintenance and planning work to be assigned to the Department of Public Works. Done.
The Appropriation Committee is mandated to be expanded from five to seven members, its role changed to focus on long range fiscal planning, its allegiance clearly aligned with that of the legislative branch of our government and its name changed to Finance Committee. Following Charter mandates, the Town Moderator, the Acting Town Finance Director and the chair of the Appropriations Committee used the open appointment process to add two additional members, Carla Gunn and Suresh Samant, to the Finance Committee in the fall of 2004.
From just this summary it is apparent that genuine and major progress has been made to achieve our goal of self governance by our home rule charter. After monitoring the transition work done so far, the Transition Team remains confident that the new Charter, the by-law changes, the good people employed by the town and the many many volunteers collectively will achieve the results that each of us really wants... a town government which provides top quality, needed town services consistent with our willingness to support them.
~ For the Charter Transition Team, Roger Wojcik, Chairman