Hearing sees more Watertown charter commission members than public

Watertown city charter commission hearing

WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - Fewer than 10 members of the public turned out Thursday night to share their thoughts on the Watertown’s proposed city charter.

Members of the city charter commission outnumbered the people who attended the meeting at the Community Action Planning Council building.

Chairman Jeff Smith says the people he interacts with outside of the hearings have an understanding of the potential changes, but he isn't entirely sure why they're not showing up.

"Maybe some people don't have as many questions," he said. "Maybe some people are doing their due diligence in reading the existing charter."

The potential problem with low turnouts to these public hearings is that the charter will be voted on in its entirety on November 5, meaning either all of it passes, or none of it does.

Smith says he believes even the voters that aren't here will be ready when the time comes.

"Generally, the voting public is well informed, and makes themselves well informed," he said.

One change the commission has made since the first hearing is to allow tech workers to remain in their union.

Now, Smith says the next potential change revolves around the issue of delinquent property taxes, which has made headlines recently as a man named Thomas Chiarelly is working to buy his home back from the city after losing it for non payment.

Chiarelly is hoping the city will adopt the policy of late payment installments.

"Does the charter prohibit, and if it does can we fix it, in terms of people paying taxes in installments, versus all at once at the end of the year," Smith said.

One main reason the charter commission was formed was to determine whether or not the city should switch to a "strong mayor" form of government.

They have decided against the switch at this time.

Smith says the commission wants to have the final version of the new charter to the city clerk by August 1.

There will be one more public hearing. It’s scheduled for July 23 at the Italian-American Civic Association.

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