Groton group circulating petition to put charter changes on 2018 ballot

Groton — A group of residents that includes three former town councilors has begun a petition drive to get the recently rejected Charter Revision Commission report on the ballot for the Nov. 6, 2018, election.

The commission proposed several changes to Groton’s government, including eliminating the Representative Town Meeting and holding an annual budget referendum. The former Town Council rejected the commission report in a 5-4 vote last month.

The vote meant the report would not go to voters at referendum unless there was a petition signed by at least 10 percent of registered voters within 45 days. Groton has about 19,000 registered voters, and the group calling itself Groton’s Right to Vote plans to collect 2,000 signatures to meet the requirement. The deadline for filing the signatures is Jan. 12, according to Town Clerk Betsy Moukawsher.

“It got rejected by the town council in a 5-4 vote; that’s five people out of 19,000 active voters in Groton," said Bob Frink, a member of the now disbanded Charter Revision Commission. "Something this important should really go to all the voters to decide once and for all.”

Commissioners Rosanne Kotowski, Scott Aument, Jennifer White and Kathy Chase also are involved in the effort.

Groton’s Right to Vote has about 15 members, but about 20 people will be circulating the petition, said former Town Councilor Bonnie Nault, who joined the group along with former Councilors Karen Morton and Diane Barber.

“I feel strongly about it,” Nault said. “We asked for that charter revision, all nine of us. We wanted them to open the charter and look at these things, and almost everything that they proposed were things that we suggested they look at. And then for the Town Council to turn around after these people volunteered for 15 months to work on these issues — to just turn around and vote it down — it was insulting to them.”

Nault set up an email account, GRTV2018@gmail.com, with the initials short for Groton’s Right to Vote, and is using it to seek others to help circulate the petition.

Former RTM member Frederick Kent, also a member of the group, believes taxpayers should have a direct say on the budget.

“The budgets are out of control,” Kent said. “Look at the schools. Enrollment goes down 100 a year and the staff goes up by 50 a year. It’s amazing.”

"Why should five people on the Town Council take that right away from people in the town when city of Groton voters can vote on their budget and Groton Long Point can vote on their budget?" said former Groton City Councilor Jay Dempsey.

Group members began the petition drive last weekend and have divided the town into neighborhoods to organize the effort. “It is a tough time of year and we’re just getting the word out now. But we’re confident,” Frink said.

"We would rather all be doing other things, including Christmas shopping," said Ed Johnson of Noank. "But this has to be done."

d.straszheim@theday.com

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