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Charter plan to consolidate awaits vote by residents

Voters in the City of Batavia and the town that surrounds it will have a special issue on the ballot in the Nov. 6 election: "Should the Town of Batavia and the City of Batavia consolidate into a newly enlarged City of Batavia, and should the proposed charter for the newly consolidated city be approved?"

That's the gist of a 35-page proposed charter that, if accepted by voters in both entities, would become a city with vastly enlarged borders on Jan. 1, 2014.

The charter, prepared during months of study by a Consolidated Charter Task Force aimed at creating One Batavia, transfers many, but not all, of the town's operations to the city. The town would maintain its volunteer Fire Department. The city Police Department's duties would be limited to the present city boundaries.

Some changes would be postponed. Present ordinances and regulations in both the city and town would remain for up to two years while the new governing body enacts a set of rules to replace the two sets of existing laws.

Under a three-tiered taxing structure, the town would keep its zero tax rate.

The new government would be a city manager-council form that has existed in the city since 1959. However, the present nine-member City Council would have larger reconfigured wards, and the present three at-large seats would be expanded to five.

A merger would give the city a new business district of about 20 retailers, including five national chains. It also would put the sheriff's administrative offices back in the city. And a half-dozen hotels would have city addresses.

The task force estimates that the merger would save about $900,000 in combined costs. It could also change the distribution of a 4 percent shared county sales tax because of the extensive retail operations in the present town.

The task force's timeline calls for information sessions May 17 and 24, and four public hearings beginning May 31. The proposal must be approved by voters in both municipalities after it first gains expected passage by the City Council and Town Board.