Town Council looks to put proposal for appointed town leader on ballot

Town Council looks to put proposal for appointed town leader on ballot

Special Election set for July 7

NORTH SMITHFIELD - A special election to replace a Town Council member who died March 3 has been scheduled for July, and it looks like the ballot will lay out more than just the names of his potential successors.

Voters looking to fill the seat formerly held by Council Vice President Ernest Alter will also reconsider the idea of changing to a town manager style of government, a proposal that some say Alter would have supported.

"A lot of things that I'm going to be proposing are things that Ernie and I had discussed at great length over many years," said Town Council President Robert Boucher. "These are systematic changes that are needed."

Residents who hope to run for the seat will need to declare their candidacy and pick up papers on April 23 and 24. A local father who runs the Northmen Hoops program, Anthony Soly, has already stated that he will run for the spot and several additional candidates are rumored to be considering a campaign.

If a primary is needed to narrow the choices, it will be held on June 2.

The timing will allow the council to advertise and hold public hearings on two proposed changes to the town charter that they hope to also place on the July 7 ballot.

The first is a proposal that was rejected by voters in 2010, but supporters say could be improved this go-round: the change from an elected town administrator to an appointed town manager.

"The last charter commission established by the Town Council drafted that proposal," said Budget Committee Chairman Michael Clifford, who served on the charter board in 2009 and 2010. The proposal was changed, however, he said, by that council before it made it to the ballot, and strict language limiting counselors' ability to let cronyism affect the choice was taken out.

"I wasn't that enthralled with the language that went on the ballot," Clifford said. "It gave them too broad of powers to just pick a friend. That was a major criticism and I think it was a big part of why it didn't pass."

Clifford said there were also rumors in 2010 that the council only wanted the change because they had someone in mind for the job. This time, a new council would be in place before the selection could be made, and a change could be implemented immediately following the current administrator's term.

"This would be an ideal time to put it on a special election ballot," Clifford said.

Twenty one towns in the state currently have a town manager, while only 13 have an elected leader at the helm.

Clifford said he will help Councilor Roseanne Nadeau to draft the new proposed change. A public hearing on the matter was tentatively scheduled for April 20.

Another proposed charter change would allow the second-highest vote getter from a general election to fill any vacant seat on the Town Council when more than one year remains in the term. According to current charter rules, council members have the authority to appoint an individual to fill the seat if less than a year remains.

"This is a very unusual circumstance," said Solicitor David Igliozzi, pointing out that if the timing was six months different, the situation would not require the special election.

Officials estimated that the upcoming election will cost the town $6,000.

Boucher is a proponent of the change, modeled after a provision in the Burrillville Town Charter.

"It gives you good transition of government," Boucher said. Plus, he added, "It's costing the town to have a special election."

Councilor Paul Zwolenski expressed concern that the new member will not be seated on the council in time for budget season.

"We're not going to have a fifth council person to look at one of the most important thing this town faces - the budget," he said. "We need to have five council members up here representing our citizens."

In order to comply with state law on the required advertising period and other terms, the earliest officials could possibly have scheduled the special election would have been the third week of June.

"How much can one person that only has a couple of days (in office) really contribute?" asked Councilor Kimberly Alves. "I just think for a week, we're kind of pushing this."

Alves also pointed out that holding the election in July would allow the council to plan for the expense.

"We have enough hitting our budget this year," she said.

The issue was settled after Igliozzi noted that the individual could not take office until 10 days after the election.

The later timing will also give the council the opportunity to resolve a problem with the $4.3 million school facilities bond approved by voters in November. The bond will finance facility improvements including the demolition of Halliwell Elementary School. But a decision in 2014 by the then council not to fill out a secondary "Stage II" application for construction reimbursement with the Rhode Island Department of Education has created a need to revisit the issue.

The application, which could bring in some $1.7 million in reimbursement from the state board, cost $31,000 to submit, and town officials had initially hoped to delay the spending until after they obtained voter approval. It was later discovered that the timeline was in violation of RIDE processes.

Igliozzi said he plans to submit identical language from the November school bond back on the ballot in July.

Comments

A speciasl election is NOT the time to add additional questions on the ballot as voter turnout will be low as compared to a general election.

The voters of the Town of North Smithfield just voted to keep town government the same this past November.

The idea of having the second place finisher for town council given the authority to name a resident to the town council is not doing the residents nor the town any favors.

During the general election, 6 members of the town council should be elected with the lowest vote getter being the alternate in case a scenerio like this happens in the future.

Let the voters decide this one, not a town council member.

Just sayin...

Craig, Do you support a Town Manager.

A Town Manager is the only way to go for North Smithfield in my humble opinion. You may spend a bit more money but the benefits outway the salary increase. I guesss that's why 21 towns in the state now have a Town Manager.

Running a Munincipality is a business.

Let's do it!

Ron Renaud

Ugh!
RR - Not!
Political pro

Lets see the proposal.

Time is running short.

Requirements for consideration ?
Salary ?
Hiring/Firing ?
Town resident or not ?

There is a lot that needs to go into this before you sell it to the voters.

I'm interested in the position.

I'm not really too sure how much i like the idea of the town council deciding who would be the town manager. It sounds like it could be a situation of someone's friend getting the job, whether they're qualified or not. This town does need a town manager, someone with the background & experience in total management, but sorry to say, politics in this town/state are less than stellar & very shady. This requires more guidelines as to the qualifications & information being given to all citizens of this town.

Carol Minot

When your in you Grin,When your out you pout!

Heck, I would do it for two years at $60k/yr without any benefits and am pretty sure other retirees, who are equally qualified and financially positioned, would also step in to do it too as a community service.

But that really is not a viable long term solution.

George Hemond
Retired MBA

I can't see the Town Council appointing the Town Manager also. Way too much political power there esp. since the town is seeing so much as it is now. 2nd highest vote getter gets to appoint the new Town Councilor, you have to be kidding me. It needs to be done like I proposed so the voters have a say in it.

Also there should be a vetting committee formed that has a say in who will be the Town Manager not just the town council.

We shall see how Mike Clifford and that Nadeau girl put this together as stated in the article.

I can't wait to read the draft proposal.

Hi George :)

My only question is can the Town of North Smithfield be managed like a private sector business????????????????????

The fundamentals of managemt are common for both public and private organizations. Differences are limited to structure., stakeholders,financial reporting requirements but person to person management concepts and styles are similar for successful operations.
Both are very well covered in any solid MBA program an developed over years of experience.

At the end of the day it is all about managing PEOPLE.

BUT, it all depends on the language that's going into the legislation that they are drawing up.

One can only do so much with limited powers and some on the Town Council want most of the control.

That is why it is important for the voters to read what they are voting for. I fell like it's a hurry up kind of thing with Boucher, Nadeau and Clifford and I don't understand what the big hurry is.

The Town of North Smithfield has protection now, It's called the RECALL provision that voters voted for.