Guilford to air proposal to adopt RTM government

Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff
09/18/2007

GUILFORD — Town officials are considering a major restructuring of Guilford’s traditional town meeting form of government, and the Charter Revision Commission will hold a public hearing tonight to discuss the changes.

The commission is recommending that Guilford modify its current legislative system, in which all registered voters or taxpayers 18 and older can attend town meetings to vote on bonding for major projects or the annual budget.

Instead, residents in each of Guilford’s five voting district’s would elect five representatives, forming a 25-person representative town meeting.

Frederick Trotta, Charter Revision Commission chairman, said the proposed town meeting structure would allow the representatives to educate themselves more about the topics at hand than average citizens often do.

“With a (representative town meeting) you could have a body of what would be 25 people study the topic and make recommendations to the town and vote on the topic, as opposed to having to cram 600 people inside an auditorium and vote on a show of raising a colored slip of paper,” Trotta said. “You could actually have an intelligent debate on the whys and wherefores of a particular issue.”

Under the proposal, town meeting representatives would be nonpartisan and would serve two-year terms. At the same time, the commission is proposing that the terms for the Board of Selectmen — which Trotta described as town government’s executive branch — be extended from two years to four years.

First Selectman Carl Balestracci said he was surprised that all five selectmen agreed with the idea of four-year terms when it was discussed.

“With two-year terms, you’re elected and almost a year before the end of your second year you’re already in a campaign mode, so this would give better continuity to administration and long-range planning,” Balestracci said.

Neighboring Branford currently has a 30-member, partisan Representative Town Meeting whose members serve two-year terms.

The Guilford Board of Selectmen convened the Charter Revision Commission last August with the goal of considering different forms of government available to the town and streamlining the budget process. The town has had a Charter Revision Commission every few years for the last 10 to 15 years, and the last one was three years ago, Balestracci said.

The commission is also recommending that the town create a public works commission and eliminate the position of town treasurer, whose duties have been subsumed under the finance department, Trotta said. After tonight’s hearing, the commission will present its final recommendations to the Board of Selectmen, which will consider the recommendations and present them for action at a referendum.

Tonight’s hearing will begin at 7 in the Nathanael B. Greene Community Center, 32 Church St.

“I’m in no rush to bring this to referendum because I think the people need time to absorb the recommendations and to consider the recommendations,” Balestracci said.

“It’s going to be several months because we need to have a lot of public input and we need to educate the public as to those things that we feel strongly we need to change.”

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