Petitioners to continue push for town manager vote

(This story has been corrected to reflect that Rep. Chea Waters Evans had not talked to the legislative attorney Tucker Anderson at the time of this meeting. Her conversation had been with the chair of the House Committee on Government Operations and Military Affairs. Getting a charter approved will take longer than had originally been said in this article.)

The group of people, who have led the effort of collecting signatures for a petition to require a town vote on switching to a town manager, met this past Friday, July 21, to discuss how they would proceed.

Following the revelation at the selectboard meeting the previous Tuesday of the town attorney’s opinion that state statute requires, if the town switches to a town manager, for the town manager to become the de facto road commissioner, they gathered to reassess their effort and decide if they would continue with their petition.

Charlotte Representative Chea Waters Evans came to the meeting with some revelations from her conversation with the chair of her committee, the House Committee on Government Operations and Military Affairs, who said there were other ways to switch to a town manager and for the town to keep its road commissioner as an elected position. For example, the town could make the switch to a town manager and go to an appointed road commissioner. The group of petitioners is convinced that Charlotte does not want an appointed road commissioner.

Tucker Anderson, the legislative counsel to the General Assembly, agreed with the town attorney and said the town would need a charter to keep an elected road commissioner. The charter keeping an elected road commissioner would be needed to supersede state statutes.

Evans said it would not take a year to get a charter passed, as has been asserted at town selectboard meetings.

If the town holds a vote on switching to a town manager and the switch is approved by voters, Evans said she would have a bill for a charter allowing Charlotte to keep its elected road commissioner while changing to a town manager ready to go when the Legislature convenes the first week January.

Evans said the charter could be approved by the House by January or February. The process would probably be expedited because Evans sits on the House Committee on Government Operations and Military Affairs, which would oversee the charter process.

Her committee’s duties include considering “matters relating to the structure, organization and oversight of state, local, county and regional government,” according to Vermont General Assembly website.

After it is approved by the House, Evans said she would walk it over to the Senate.

“If everything goes smoothly, without a glitch, it could be approved by April,” Evans said.

But that is a big “if.” She doesn’t know what other bills or priorities the Legislature might have that could slow down the process, even for a bill that isn’t controversial. Generally, she said, it’s smooth sailing for bills that are supported by individual towns.

The only things that might hold up the charter approval are, Evans said, if the governor didn’t sign it or if there’s some further unforeseen implication that might affect other towns’ charters concerning their road commissioners.

After discussion, the group decided it was not going to give up on the push for a vote on a town manager.

The group has begun to organize for collecting signatures for a modified petition requiring a town vote for a town manager and a charter that would keep an elected road commissioner.