A look back: The first issue of the Granby Drummer

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The cover of the first Granby Drummer, October 1970

Once the high school building project was settled, the newly formed Citizens for a Better Granby started work on the first edition of The Granby Drummer. For the first time since its adoption, the town charter was being revised by a BOS-appointed commission and was scheduled for a referendum in November of 1970. Following through on its commitment to keeping the community informed, the late David Hildreth wrote the first report dealing with a topic of importance to Granby citizens. He would go on to write Board of Selectmen reports for three decades.

Charter Revision

(reprinted from the first issue, Oct. 1970)

by David Hildreth

Granby’s charter form of government, not yet 10 years old, is undergoing its second revision. Between now and Nov. 3, when adoption of the proposed changes comes before the voters as a question on the ballot, is the time to find out what these changes are and what their significance is.

Chief features of the changes

I. Many of these changes reflect the need to clarify to whom various town officials report. At the present time, many administrative officials report to the Selectmen—as does the Chief Administrative Officer. In the opinion of the Charter Revision Commission it is preferable for the CAO to appoint the people working for him and to be able to discharge them if they don’t measure up. The first major charter change is aimed at making the Town Clerk and the Tax Collector appointees of the CAO, along with the Assessor, the Chief of Police, the Highway Foreman, the Tree Warden, the Fire Marshal, the Building Inspector, the Civil Defense Director, the Director of Health, the Town Accountant, and the Welfare Case Worker. All of these appointments are subject to the approval of the Board of Selectmen.

Under the revision, the Town Treasurer would be appointed by the Selectmen to avoid a conflict of interest since town checks are signed jointly by the Treasurer and the CAO.

II. A second revision change is the elimination of the Board of Selectmen as the Police Board. Since control of the police department rests with the Selectmen, through the merit system, which is established under an ordinance passed by the Selectmen, the immediate day-to-day operation belongs under the Chief Administrative Officer, as with other appointed officials. In turn, the Chief of Police should have—and will have under these changes—disciplinary powers over the members of his force, including the right to suspend a patrolman for up to 24 hours. The continuance of any suspension actually rests with the Selectmen.

III. The third main change is in the section on the annual budget, Three changes are suggested:

1. Formalize the right of the Board of Finance to adjust the budget during a recess of the Town Meeting.

2. Provide a mechanism for continuing to pay town obligations according to the old budget if the new budget is rejected by the town after June 15th.

3. Increase the limit on additional appropriations from 1/4 percent of current levy to 3/4 percent of same. (Current amount was impractically small.)

The remaining changes are to procedures and in matters of style. Several sections (4-1, 8-1, 11-3) were deleted or changed because their subject matter is included in the state statutes. Sec. 4-2, as changed, gives the CAO full power to act as the Chief Executive Officer. This is a formality—it brings the CAO’s title in line with the services he performs. In Sec. 6-2, a general reference to appointments by the Selectmen replaces the present specific references to terms of duty for various commissions. Changes in Chapter 10, Finance and Taxation, other than those prescribing the duties of town officials in the adoption of the budget, affect procedural handling only; setting definite calendar dates for the steps in the budget process, defining the fiscal year, etc. Finally, a change in Chapter 12, Miscellaneous Provisions, would make the terms of present officials continue until the first Monday in January following biennial elections.

A separate question

A separate vote will be called for this fall in the question of a compulsory referendum on the adoption of the budget. This item was not one of the original changes recommended by the Charter Revision Commission. They had felt that a compulsory referendum was a questionable use of town funds, running $700-$800 each time, and that the need for such a move had not been clearly established by the events of the last two years. There was considerable feeling also that a referendum vote would work against the existence of an informed electorate, already small, by making it possible for many persons to vote without having attended any hearings on the budget. However, in view of the stand taken by the Granby Taxpayers Association that townspeople should at least be able to vote on the question of adopting an automatic referendum, and that a referendum makes it possible for persons to vote that would be unable to attend an evening town meeting, the separate question was added.