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Charter Review Committee Hosts Public Forum Sept. 24

Group Wants Citizen Input Before Completing Recommendations

 

Last updated 9/23/2020 at 12:57pm

The Lake Wales Charter Review Committee is holding a public forum at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 24 to ensure citizens have an opportunity for input into proposed charter changes.

The five-member committee has been meeting twice monthly since July, but most of the suggested changes have come from city commissioners, not the public.

Interested people may attend in person at the city administration building, 201 W. Central Ave. or can register to participate online at https://www.lakewalesfl.gov/Register. Comments or questions can be emailed to [email protected]

The committee so far has identified eight proposed Charter changes, which will go to the city commission for approval to place them on the April 2021 municipal ballot for voter approval. For each proposed change, City Attorney Chuck Galloway is preparing an ordinance that includes the proposed ballot language.

The committee expects to complete its work in October.

In addition to receiving input on its proposed changes, the committee will consider any other recommendations brought forward by citizens. The charter can be reviewed at http://lakewales.elaws.us/code/charter

So far, potential Charter changes the Committee may recommend include:

CANDIDATE RESIDENCY: Candidates for mayor or city commission currently must live within the city limits for one year before qualifying to run. The Committee is recommending a three-year residency requirement so potential commissioners have a better understanding of the community before seeking to govern.

MISSION STATEMENT: Deputy Mayor Robin Gibson advocated for a city mission statement to be included in the Charter. The Committee modified Gibson's suggestion and plans to recommend the following: The mission of the City of Lake Wales is to serve and unify its citizens, to foster economic growth while building on our City's existing small town values, and to promote the Bok ethic that we make our City "a bit better and more beautiful" for our being here.

PURCHASING: The Charter currently calls for the city manager to approve every purchase, which slows down the process, presents a significant paperwork burden and takes time away from the manager's other duties. The Committee is recommending aligning the Charter section on purchasing with procedures outlined in city ordinance – currently allowing department heads to approve budgeted purchases of up to $1,000 and city manager approval above that level. The Charter would just refer back to the existing ordinance.

COMMISSIONERS ELECTED BY DISTRICT: Commissioners currently are voted on citywide but must live in the district they will represent when they qualify to run. The Charter currently says a commissioner must give up the seat if he or she move outside the city. The Committee is recommending a commissioner vacate the seat if he or she moves outside their district.

FILLING VACANCIES: Currently if a commission seat is vacated, the city commission appoints a replacement, who serves for the remainder of the three-year term. The Committee is recommending if more than one year remains on the term the vacancy be placed on the ballot to be filled by the voters. The commission appointee would only serve until the seat is filled in the next city election. The newly elected commissioner would serve the remainder of the unexpired term.

CITY MANAGER RESIDENCY: The Charter specifies that the city manager does not have to live within the city limits at the time of employment. The Committee discussed whether to add a residency requirement to the Charter, and agreed to recommend that the city manager must live within "the greater Lake Wales area" within six months of employment. The city commission would still have the option to require residency within the city limits through their employment contract, but the Committee agreed limited executive housing options within the city or the desire of a manager to live on a large, rural piece of property might discourage candidates.

DUTIES OF COMMISSIONERS: The current Charter details the duties of the mayor, but doesn't specify duties of commissioners. Since these duties are not spelled out in the charter or ordinances, the Committee agreed it would be prudent to include them in the Charter. The proposed list of duties is still being fine-tuned by the Committee. (SEE sidebar story to the right, which includes updates from Aug. 27 meeting.)

TIMELINE FOR BUDGET AND 5-YEAR CAPITAL IMPROVEMENT PLAN: (updated Aug. 27): The current Charter calls for the Capital Improvement Plan to be submitted three months before the budget is due to commissioners on Sept. 1; the CIP actually has been submitted simultaneously with the budget, a timeline the Committee agreed was appropriate. The Charter change would have both due no later than Sept. 1 so the Commission could adopt them in September before the new fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.

 

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