BRISTOL - City voters approved five of the ballot questions on Election Day, rejecting three others having to do with changing the city treasurer position from elected to appointed, removing some of the building official’s duties, and revising the role of the Board of Police Commissioners in the hiring process for the police chief.
Seven of the questions had to do with City Charter revisions recommended by the Charter Revision Commission.
When he presented the commission’s report to the council last July, Chairman Jon Fitzgerald said the idea to appoint the city treasurer came from the current treasurer, Thomas Barnes Jr., since it’s a part-time position that involves serving on the pension board which requires some technical financial skill.
Fitzgerald said the commission looked at how other cities of similar size to Bristol handle their treasurer, and found that most appoint the position.
Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu said the voters’ rejection of the proposal was maybe “because it was written as a reversion back to appointed from elected so that they felt as if they wouldn’t have a say.”
The commission also recommended some changes to the police department and the police board, which the report says were made at the suggestion of the mayor and Chief Brian Gould. These include removing the police board from the promotional process, leaving it more up to the chief.
In addition, the commission recommended: eliminating certain duties of the building official as the clerk of the Zoning Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals; designating the Water Department as the Sewer Department, its commission as the Sewer Commission, its superintendent as the Sewer Department superintendent, and clarifying their duties and responsibilities; and making other technical, non-substantive revisions to the charter.
Fitzgerald said a previous commission moved the responsibility for managing the sanitary sewer systems from Public Works to the Water Department, so these new recommendations are simply clarifying that.
Zoppo-Sassu said she took responsibility for voters’ rejection of some of these issues.
“We clearly should have done more outreach,” she said. “I didn’t get a lot of questions about them.”
“These are all procedural issues that would make departments run smoother and mirror what’s actually being done as opposed to archaic language. Some of the language in our charter is over 100 years old, and it’s time for a major overhaul because we’ve been ‘band aiding’ for the last 20 years,” she added.
Zoppo-Sassu has had charter revisions commission for the first two years of her administration. She said she plans to empanel a third one next year, which could run for two years and propose questions for the 2021 ballot so as not to have next year’s presidential election be a distraction.
The eighth ballot question, which passed, was a formality to renew Bristol’s participation in the Connecticut City and Town Development Act for another five years.
The act empowers municipalities to offer incentives and do other work to encourage development here, Bristol Development Authority executive director Justin Malley explained when the council approved the question in September.
The results for the eight questions are:
1. “Shall technical amendments to Sections 2, 12A, 16, 19(a), 38, 39A, and 42 be approved?” Yes 5,561, No 2,877.
2. “Shall the building official duties as the clerk of the zoning commission and zoning board of appeals, and zoning enforcement officer be removed?” Yes 4,719, No 4,853.
3. “Shall the treasurer be changed from an elected to an appointed officer, and a technical revision and removal of a gender reference be approved?” Yes 4,087, No 6,169.
4. “Shall the role of the board of police commissioners be clarified as an advisory and policy board to the police department?” Yes 7,056, No 2,753.
5. Shall the role of the board of police commissioners be revised and the factors and weights removed from the promotional process in the police department?” Yes 5,111, No 4,489.
6. “Shall the role of the board of police commissioners be revised and certain requirements removed in hiring the chief of police?” Yes 4,694, No 5,019.
7. “Shall the operational responsibility and fiscal oversight of the sewer department be clarified?” Yes 8,607, No 1,269.
8. “Shall the City of Bristol approve the City Council Resolution dated August 13, 2019 that adopts the Connecticut City and Town Development Act, which grants additional authority to aid and promote industrial and other forms of economic development?” Yes 7,747, No 2,191.
For more information about the Charter Revision Commission’s recommendations, visit http://www.bristolct.gov/DocumentCenter/View/22863/charter-revision-2019-draft-report?bidId=.
Susan Corica can be reached at 860-973-1802 or firstname.lastname@example.org.