Commissioners Give Final Look at Proposed Charter Changes
Last updated 11/11/2020 at 10am
The Lake Wales City Commission will give a final look Nov. 3 to seven proposed changes to the city charter that would go on the April 2021 municipal ballot.
Commissioners decided to hold their meeting early at 10 a.m. at the city administration building to avoid election day conflicts.
Two weeks ago commissioners approved seven ordinances to place before the voters changes recommended by the five-member Charter Review Committee. They decided to define the duties of city commissioners by ordinance, instead of placing them on the ballot. And while they liked the idea of requiring candidates to live within the city for three years prior to running for office, they dropped it when City Attorney Chuck Galloway questioned whether it would pass a legal challenge.
The mayor and commissioners each appointed one member of the Charter Review Committee, which had been meeting every two weeks since July 16. Members include: attorneys Sara Jones, Keith Wadsworth and Jim Weaver, and college administrator Andy Oguntola. The Committee chairperson is news publisher and consultant Chevon Baccus, who served on the Charter Review Committee in 2010, the last time the document was fully reviewed.
Proposed charter changes include the following:
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.
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.
DUTIES OF THE MAYOR: The committee recommended one change to the duties of mayor, which were approved by voters in 2011. Instead of the mayor making appointments to boards, committees and commissions with the advice and consent of commissioners, the change would allow commissioners a greater role in recruiting and recommending appointees.