By Andrea Cordle
Grove City officials want to change aspects of the city charter, but they need voter support to do it.
At the July 6 meeting, council approved several pieces of legislation to initiate charter amendments that will be placed on the November ballot.
Last year, a 13-member charter review committee, made up of Grove City citizens, was appointed by city council. The committee recently made its final recommendations to council.
The charter amendment that drew the most debate from council members was the committee’s proposal to increase the city’s council from five to seven members by the year 2023. The amendment says the city should be divided into five wards, instead of the current four wards, and include two at-large seats instead of one. The council at-large seats would become a four-year term instead of a two-year term.
Charter committee members felt a council of five ward seats and two at-large seats would allow a rotation of the majority of government and better representation of the wards.
Council members Jeff Davis and Roby Schottke did not support this particular charter amendment initiative and cast a ‘no’ vote.
“I just don’t see any public outcry for a larger council,” said Schottke.
The ordinance to initiate the charter amendment passed with a majority vote and the voters will decide if they want a larger council.
Council also approved a charter amendment initiative to change the way the city communicates with the public.
The charter currently mandates that the city give public notice of ordinances in a newspaper of general circulation. The proposal would cut out the notice in the publication and allow city officials to place the information on the city’s website.
According to Stephen Smith, the city’s law director, this amendment embraces the technology age.
“This gives us the flexibility to use the Internet,” said Smith.
According to the committee, to view these public notices, one would have to subscribe to a newspaper and now there are numerous ways to deliver information to the public through the Internet at no cost for the content.
According to the Ohio Revised Code, all legal advertisements, notices and proclamations shall be printed in a newspaper of general circulation and shall be posted on the newspaper’s website.
Smith said because Grove City operates as a charter, the Ohio constitution gives the city the ability to operate under home rule authority and adopt its own rules.
“It allows us to vary from state law,” said Smith.
Another proposed charter change deals with public meetings. Currently, all meetings are public and the council cannot meet in a closed-door executive session.
“This amendment would enable council to go into executive session, “said Smith. “This is helpful when discussing matters such as buying property.”
Officials cannot act on anything in an executive session. The action must be done in a public setting.
The composition of the planning commission was also a charter topic. The proposal is to remove the mayor from the planning commission and make it a five-citizen member planning commission.
The committee wants to remove the mayor from the commission because “the will of the mayor is expressed through documents and review by the development department and the mayor appoints the member of the boards and commissions.”
The charter amendments also eliminated language on council and mayor salaries. The committee felt the charter should be silent on specific amounts of compensation since there is language that allows council to adjust compensation by ordinance.
Also potentially eliminated from the charter was a section that referred to when Grove City was a village and become a city.
Councilman Ted Berry said even though council approved the legislation, it will be on the Nov. 7 ballot.
“Let the members of our community decide,” he said.