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Charter committee prepares proposals

A committee reviewing the Olean City Charter since last September has drafted a preliminary list of recommendations to be made final in two weeks.

The recommendation will then go to the Common Council's Strategic Planning Committee.

Eight members of the 12-member Olean Charter Review Committee met Monday night and agreed that their research points to a central question: Should the city continue with a full-time mayor or should the elected position become part-time and a full-time professional city manager be hired?

Some of the other recommendations may hinge on whether the city decides to pursue the city manager form of government.

Committee Chairwoman Linda Edstrom, from Ward 4, and committee members Rod Hughes and Gerald Zimmerman were chosen to write a resolution that the committee could approve at its next meeting.

Edstrom told the committee members that Mayor David Carucci told her in a recent meeting that he considers the committee to constitute a legally formed charter commission.

Edstrom said when a commission is established it requires a mayor's certificate of appointment to be sent to the city clerk for filing and the process receives approval from the Common Council.

Several of the committee members said they may not be able to stay on, and Hughes asked Edstrom if she believes the Council will press the case to move forward with redrafting the charter.

Member Paul Schaefer asked whether a commission would receive staff support, noting the secretary who had been assigned to the committee was no longer available and information requested from the city attorney had not been received.

Edstrom said she would be willing to bring a resolution to the aldermen and explained that a commission would recommend changes, draft a new charter with the help of a lawyer, send it to the state for a review and then put it up to the public for a referendum. The members then took a straw poll and included, in a list of recommendations, items that drew the support of the majority of those present.

Six of the members said they favored a city manager, and two said they were opposed. They also agreed to request a formal designation of a commission and to include in the recommendations:

* Requiring an oversight committee if the mayoral form of government remains.

* Make the city clerk's job civil service.

* Extend the aldermen's two-year terms to four years under a city manager form of government.

* Open the possibility of adding a chief financial officer or comptroller to the city officers.

* Include the city assessor in the charter's listing of officials.

The group also wanted to request legal information from the city attorney regarding some of the charter provisions, along with staff support for future work of a commission.

The committee members invited public comments and interviewed a number of witnesses, including Carucci and City Attorney Dan DeRose, two former mayors, and representatives of the International City/County Management Association.

While mayors have consistently recommended against the city manager form of government, many of the committee members said it might bring improvements.

The committee will finalize the resolution at its next meeting at 5:15 p.m. Feb. 5 in Room 119 in the Municipal Building.

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