November 24, 2014

Au Gres City Council begins discussing charter update

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Au GRES — Members of the Au Gres City Council could be meeting soon to suggest changes they would like to see in the city’s charter, although changes would ultimately be in the hands of a committee of residents and would require voter approval.

Council member Larry Malace was vocal in his desire to update the charter during council’s Feb. 4 meeting.

“As far as I’m concerned, this is totally outdated,” he said at the meeting.

“It hasn’t been addressed since ’85, and we’re going on 30 years,” Mayor Pro-tem Keith Edmonds said.

Malace said he would like council members to research the charter and then report at a meeting what they would like to see amended. From there, the council could recommend changes to the citizens committee that would approve changes that would be put on the ballot for voter approval.

“I’m going to go through the whole charter again, and I started making notes of different issues that I think are important, and I think other members are going to do the same thing,” he told the Independent Feb. 6.

Election dates are one of the specific items in the charter Malace said he feels should be addressed. During the February meeting, he also made note of the section of the charter that deals with trailer houses.

“You’ve got things in there that says you cannot have a trailer house on your property and this and that,” he said. “Nowadays, there are motor homes and things people put on their property.”

When it comes to election dates, City Clerk-Treasurer LaVonne Pritchard said the city has elections in even years that are consistent with primaries and general elections, and elections every May for city council seats.

“The city council terms are staggered so every year there’s a person up for election,” she said.

This year, Pritchard said, there are two seats up for election in May, with terms ending for Mayor Tom Ennes and Councilmember Clifford Warr. Neither current member filed for reelection, but two Au Gres residents — Joy Humerickhouse and Colleen Rollins — have filed for the vacant seats, she said.

City Manager Pat Killingbeck told council members at the meeting that many of the issues in the charter have become outdated due to changes in state law. Trying to update the charter to stay in line with the state law would be an endless process, she said.

“State laws are changing so fast there’s no way you can keep up,” she said.

When it comes to the cost associated with updating a city charter, County Clerk Rick Rockwell said legal costs would be the biggest financial burden. Other costs would include posting notices and, if necessary, holding a special election, he said.

“They’re going to have to publish their proposed changes, and they may or may not be able to use a regular election date,” he said.

Malace said during the meeting that he would like to have the charter updates on the November ballot.

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