Monterey Council completes town charter revisions
Monterey, Va. –
At its meeting last Thursday evening, the Monterey Town Council completed the long process of updating and revising the Town Charter. After several months work by Mayor Janice Warner, Monterey resident Carolyn Aldridge, and the Council’s Charter Committee, the charter was the subject of a public hearing at the Council meeting. Town Attorney Melissa Dowd talks about some of the changes to the charter.
“I don’t know that I have ever seen you all work as hard as you did on this Town Charter,” said Ms. Dowd. “So, it has been a lot going into it. The main thing was a lot of wordsmithing to bring it into the twentieth century. It was a little bit antiquated in the way it was written. One of the primary things that is the change is that at the present time there are two year terms for Town Council members and the proposal is to go to four year terms,” she said.
Ms. Dowd goes on to explain how doing away with the May election for Town Council will save the Town the expense of holding an extra election. This change should also increase participation in the Town Council voting since the number of votes cast in previous Council elections had dropped off significantly in recent May elections.
“Council is interested in moving the voting from the May general election to getting in the general election cycle in November, so that you don’t have extra costs for voting,” said Ms. Dowd. “And that, according to the statutes is done by ordinance not in the charter. The other thing that was taken out of the charter is all the meets and bounds and the description of the town. For some reason the code says that “you shall not have the meets and bounds in the town charter. There are a variety of plats in the Circuit Court Clerk’s office, but there isn’t one plat of the Town of Monterey, because were various editions over time. So there isn’t one place you can go and say, these are the town meets and bounds,’ so that was removed from it,” she said.
During the public hearing on the charter, Monterey resident Rich Holman spoke out about one section of the charter.
“I wanted to comment about the paragraph seven of the Law Enforcement section,” said Mr. Holman. “I see this fixe s their compensation for law enforcement people who’ve provided us with service. I’ve always believed that since we pay full taxes to the county, that we are entitled to law enforcement just as all the other citizens in Highland County. And I think that having that in there .I don’t see the necessity of that myself,” he said.
Town Attorney Melissa Dowd then explained her rationale for keeping that section in the charter.
“The approach that I took as legal advisor for the council, was that in the old charter, if there were broad powers granted to the town keep em,” Ms. Dowd said. “And that section says the council may enter into agreements’. It doesn’t say they shall’ or they ought to’. It says they may enter into’ those agreements. So the thinking of the council was influenced by me in saying hey, that’s a power that you guys had from the beginning’ let’s don’t give it up in case we might need it at some point in the future,” she said.
After agreeing on a few minor changes in wording, the Council voted unanimously to send the revised charter to Delegate Dickie Bell and to request that he submit it to the Virginia House of Delegates for their approval and subsequent signature by the Governor. After the charter is approved during the spring, 2013 legislative session, the Town Council will be able to officially change the council election to coincide with future November general elections.