Stonington borough to vote May 6 on charter changes

Stonington — Borough residents will vote on a package of proposed charter revisions while incumbent Warden Jeff Callahan will run unopposed for a fourth term, when the annual borough elections are held May 6.

The polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the borough firehouse.

The recommendations of the Charter Revision Commission are designed to make borough government more sustainable and address the shortage of residents willing to serve in elected and appointed positions.

The effort to change the charter was begun by Callahan, who warned in the summer of 2016 that it was getting increasingly difficult to find the 30 people needed to not only run for various elected positions but fill seats on appointed boards.

This resulted in the borough hiring a consultant to look for ways to make its government more efficient and sustainable. The nine options included disbanding the borough and merging with the town, hiring a town manager or letting nonresidents who own property in the borough to serve on boards and commissions and attend meetings remotely.

Seventy residents who attended an August 2017 forum on the future of the borough suggested the borough look to make its government more sustainable. The Board of Warden and Burgesses then formed the charter commission to suggest a solution.

The proposed changes include reducing the number of burgesses from six to four. Those four and the warden would choose a senior burgess, who would be in charge if the warden is out of town or incapacitated.

If approved, the change in the number of burgesses would take place for the May 2021 election. This means residents will elect the traditional six burgesses this year.

One of the other major changes calls for consolidating the commissioner duties, such as parks, public safety and streets, among the five board members, making the positions of clerk-treasurer and tax assessor appointed rather than elected and eliminating the position of tax collector, as the town can collect borough taxes.

The proposal also gives the Board of Warden and Burgesses the authority to appoint a fire chief and fire marshal and confirm all officers selected by the fire department. Currently, the volunteer firefighters choose a chief, who then is confirmed by the warden and burgesses.

Callahan said he is running again for warden because he feels an obligation to so after leading the charter change effort. “I feel like I have an obligation to keep going until we get used to it,” he said.

The six candidates for burgess all are running unopposed. The four incumbents are Karen Von Ruffer Hills, Amy Nicholas, Amanda Barnes and Shaun Mastroianni. Also running are Kevin Rogers and Bergin O’Malley.

“I’m glad to see some young people stepping up,” Callahan said about Rogers and O’Malley.

Longtime burgesses Robert Scala and Michael Adair are not seeking re-election.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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