Watertown’s Charter Commission holds first public hearing

Updated: Jul. 11, 2019 at 6:43 AM EDT
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WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - The commission tasked with revising Watertown's charter sat down with the public to discuss a draft of the document.

Officials are stressing that there will be changes, based on input from that hearing, and others.

The commission is recommending a Deputy City Manager position. The person in this role would also serve as Public Safety Commissioner.

Charter Commission chairman Jeff Smith says the new position will help keep different departments working well together.

"Somebody streamlining and overseeing what is essentially 50 percent of the city budget,” Smith said. “Police, fire, codes department, and health safety officer."

The commission's recommendations reinforce the city manager form of government. It had been asked to review a potential switch to what's referred to as a “strong mayor” style, which would do away with the city manager system, opting for a full-time mayor, acting as the Watertown's top administrator.

Smith says the committee had one question in mind when considering the potential switch.

"Was there a significant improvement to the city of Watertown, to its government structure, by changing the form of government? And we couldn't find any significant improvement,” Smith said.

The proposed charter also calls for a new charter commission at least every 10 years to see if revisions need to be made.

The public will have two more opportunities to comment on the charter commission’s proposed changes. Hearings are scheduled for July 18th at CAPC of Jefferson County and July 23rd at the Italian American Club.

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