After 16 months of study, discussion and analysis the Wrentham Town Government Study Committee (TGSC) is nearing completion of a draft Town Charter for public review. The Charter is intended to be the keystone for modernizing and implementing consistent policies and procedures across the Town’s boards and departments to significantly improve the effectiveness and efficiency of municipal operations. In the coming weeks the TGSC will present a draft charter to town officials and then to the public in preparation of a vote at the Special Town Meeting on 12 November 2013.
The TGSC was formed by the Board of Selectmen (BOS) in the spring of 2012 to evaluate the effectiveness of the town’s organizational structure, management systems and processes. In the subsequent months the TGSC met with other towns that had gone through the government study process, met with state and local agencies to learn about TGSC best practices, and interviewed all town departments heads, boards and committees, and Town Hall employees to solicit their input. In November 2012 with the assistance of Clark University the TGSC surveyed all 4,503 or Wrentham’s residences for feedback on the quality of life in Wrentham as well as their satisfaction with town services, communication and government management.
In May 2013 the TGSC conducted a public presentation and introduced five primary recommendations that resulted from its data collection and analysis. In July, the TGSC formally presented the recommendations to the BOS and gained their concurrence. The focal point of the presentation was a recommendation that Wrentham develop and adopt a Town Charter. Since then, the TGSC has been in the process of developing a draft charter for review and input. (To see all of the TGSC Recommendations and other info go to: www.wrentham.ma.us/tgsc.)
Currently Wrentham does not have a Town Charter and relies on by-laws to provide specific rules and regulations for many aspects of how the town is governed. In absence of specific by-laws there is a reliance on the plethora and nuances of Massachusetts General Laws (MGL). The TGSC feels that this exposes the Town to inconsistent and sometimes conflicting rules for governing.
Without a Charter, there are many gaps in the Town’s by-laws including a lack of documentation regarding organizational structure, management guidelines, systems and operational processes. As an example, by-laws do not stipulate which bodies are elected, what their composition is, what the term of office is, what the responsibilities are or how vacancies are filled. Enacting a Charter, approved by the state legislature, would codify these processes to help ensure operational consistency going forward.
It also affirms the Town’s right to conduct local government in accordance with the Commonwealth’s Home Rule Amendments, in a way that is responsive to and consistent with local concerns and needs.
During September, the TGSC will be providing the draft charter to the Town’s Counsel and state agencies to ensure legal and structural compliance, and then will be providing it to the Town’s boards, committees and department heads for review. In October the TGSC will make the Charter available for public review. In doing this the TGSC will provide a series of articles, presentations and guided discussions to ensure everyone has an understanding of why the Charter is critical for moving forward as well as the particular elements of the Charter that improve the town’s organizational structure, management systems and processes.