Bethel First Selectman Matthew Knickerbocker appeared before the last regular Bethel Charter Revision Committee meeting on September 4th to appeal to the Committee to reconsider including a recommendation he and the rest of the Board of Selectmen have once again made seeking to extend the Board of Selectmen term from its current 2 years to 4 years.
The Bethel Charter Revision Committee had reportedly not included the 4 year term expansion request in its preliminary version of their recommendations that were released by Committee Attorney Vitti on August 28th, according to the First Selectman, and he urged that they reconsider the change. A similar Charter change effort failed in 2014.
The draft release of the recommendations of the Committee from August 28th have not been made public.
The Committee will hold a public hearing, expected to be its last, on September 25th to receive public input on their recommendations for changes to the Bethel Charter.
Unlike in years past, the Committee has not publicly shared its draft of their recommendations prior to the public input hearing, drawing condemnation from, among others, Independent Party of Bethel Chair and Board of Finance member Cynthia McCorkindale.
The Town Charter, by state law, must be reviewed every 5 years, and this was last done in Bethel in 2014.
The Charter Committee has been presented with and considered a number of changes, including how public notices are published, doubling the Board of Selectmen term, how election ballots are worded, allowing committees to meet outside the Municipal Center, capital budget procedures, doubling the request amount needed before a Special Town Meeting is called, replacing the Board of Selectmen with a mayor and council, as well as a number of other possible changes.
This is expected to be the last public comment hearing before the recommendations are forwarded to the Board of Selectmen, which will then trigger a referendum to consider the Charter changes as they decide to forward them.
The last Charter review vote in 2014 drew complaints from many citizens about the practice of bundling multiple unrelated items, such as combining the question about how the Board of Finance should set salaries for elected officials with the unrelated question about whether to force all Town committee meetings to take place in The Municipal Center.
The three candidates for First Selectman were asked for their comment on the renewed term expansion request. Mr. Knickerbocker referred to the October 2018 Board of Selectmen meeting. Ms. Rist did not respond. Mr. Ochs said "I see absolutely no reason for such a drastic increase in the term the Selectmen currently serve. I hope more residents voice their concerns."
The public hearing is scheduled to be held at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, September 25th in the Municipal Center General Purpose Room.
Related story: Meeting Minutes from September 4th Charter Revision Committee Meeting Minutes