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Charter Commission seeks to hire consultant

Date: 6/18/2015

EAST LONGMEADOW – The Charter Commission is seeking to add $25,000 to its committee fund that would be utilized to hire a consultant, pending approval by the Appropriations Committee.

Charter Commission member Eric Madison presented information regarding the possibility of hiring the University of Massachusetts Boston Edward Collins Jr. Center for Public Management as a consultant during the commission’s June 11 meeting.

There are two options available to the commission if they decide to hire the Collins Center, he noted.

The first would entail the Collins Center facilitating discussions in a structured manner with local communities that have changed their respective government in recent years as well as providing data to the commission for $8,000.

The second option would include the first, but the Collins Center would also write a town charter with supervision by the commission for a total of $18,000, Madison said.

“We intend to hire a consultant, whether it’s from the Collins Center or otherwise,” Madison later told Reminder Publications. “We simply don’t have enough money in the $5,000 that was appropriated when we got in, so we’re going for the Reserve Fund transfer to be able that consultant regardless of who it is.”

Madison, during the meeting, said he spoke to a representative from the Collins Center multiple times and he doesn’t believe the members of the commission need their “hands held” in the process of establishing a charter.

“We don’t need somebody to guide us on every step, but I do believe that we need the wisdom and experience and technical assistance from folks that have done this in the past,” he added.

Madison said meetings with the Collins Center would provide structure for the commission.

“If you look at this proposal, things are broken into topics,” he added. “Each topic is not necessarily a single meeting. Each topic is more than likely a series of meetings. It breaks the work we have to do down to manageable bites ... If were able to apply them to a calendar that would give us some real good deadlines. We need some decisions on the executive branch by this date. We need decisions on the legislative branch on this date and so on and so forth.”

Charter Commission Chair Dawn Wiezbicki-Starks, Charter Commission Clerk Russell Denver, and Madison also serve on the Appropriations Committee. Due to state ethics laws they are unable to be involved in Appropriations Committee discussions or decisions regarding this or any other commission matters where there is a conflict of interest.

Madison, who is also the Appropriations Committee chair, said the committee would likely take a vote before the beginning of the next fiscal year on July 1.

The commission also began forming a list of communities that it would like to visit to learn more about how each respective community established their charter or new form of government, including Easthampton, Greenfield, Palmer, Wilbraham, Longmeadow, Belchertown, Southbridge, and South Hadley.

“I suspect our visits to other communities may be better served later in the process,” Madison said.

He added that the commission’s process of interviewing boards, committees, and other elected officials as well as municipal employees within East Longmeadow allows the commission to gauge “what’s broken” and what is currently working well within the town.

Charter Commission Vice Chair Larry Levine said Town Counsel James Donohue told him that the commission must have three quotes under Massachusetts General Law 30-B in order to hire a consultant. However, the Collins Center may be exempt from this law.