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Charter Change in Claremont Almost Ready for Nov. Vote

Claremont — The Charter Commission has finalized its work, voting to adopt changes in the new charter proposal that were recommended after a review by the state.

George Caccavaro, chairman of the nine-member panel that was elected in January and began its work soon after, said over the weekend they have to present the final document to the city council early next month in order to get it on the November ballot. The council does not need to approve the proposal.

If voters pass the new charter by a simple majority, it would change the city’s form of government from a city manager/city council, which has been in effect since 1947, to an elected mayor and board of aldermen.

Caccavaro said before the vote the commission plans to hold at least one public informational hearing to explain the proposed changes and ideally they would like to develop a Powerpoint presentation.

“If people are going to vote up or down, they have to know what they are voting for,” said Caccavaro, who is among the minority of commission members opposed to changing the form of government.

At the commission meeting on Friday, members named the “standing committees” that would be established under the new charter, with three members from the public and three aldermen on each one. The committees are public works, public safety, public health, parks and recreation and finance/budget, Caccavaro said. The public members would be appointed by the board of aldermen while the mayor would appoint the aldermen.

Changes recommended earlier this month by the Office of Attorney General, the Secretary of State and the Department of Revenue Administration, all of which reviewed the document, were viewed as minor and were needed to comply with state law.

If voters pass the charter, the mayor, elected every two years, would become the city’s chief administrator at a salary of $90,000. The board of aldermen would serve two-year terms as well and earn $3,000 a year. Currently, city councilors are unpaid.

During the charter review members Joe Osgood, a Republican state representative, Cynthia Howard, Paul LaCasse, Ron Gilbert and Rusty Fowler emerged as supporters of the new charter while Caccavaro, Nick Koloski, a current city councilor, Ray Gagnon, a Democratic state representative and former city manager Robert Porter said they were opposed. In early July, the commission voted 6-3 to submit the charter to the Attorney General for review. Porter voted with the majority.

Changes or additions adopted to be consistent with state law include:

■ Vacancies on the board of aldermen will be filled until the next municipal or state election.

■ Mayor should be a “registered” voter not a “qualified” voter.

■ Elected officials cannot be prohibited from holding other elected offices, as the commission recommended but rather “no person shall hold incompatible offices as prescribed by state law.”

■ Striking the requirement that candidates on the ballot must attend a candidates’ forum.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at pogclmt@gmail.com.