Providence delays decision on city manager ordinance

PROVIDENCE – It was on the agenda, but a vote was never taken.

Before the City Council decided whether or not it should adopt an ordinance that would allow a city manager to be hired, Council member Jeff Baldwin made a motion to change the agenda item from a vote to a discussion and hold a special public hearing at a later time. In the end, Mayor Don Calderwood and the Council decided to hold a couple of special public meetings where the public will have the opportunity be educated on the issue. The first will be April 12th following the regular Council meeting.

“I don’t feel like we have quite enough information tonight to make a yes-or-no decision on this,” Baldwin said. “It needs to be thoroughly discussed.”

Council member John Drew agreed and said more time is needed for both the Council and citizens to study it.

“I think there have been a lot of rumors thrown around and a lot of misinformation,” he added.

In the proposed ordinance, the city manager would be appointed by the Council and would “be responsible for the efficient management of all administrative affairs of the city.”

Some of the responsibilities would include managing the city budget, enforcing laws and ordinances, hiring and managing city employees and serving under the direction of the Council.

The push for a city manager came after a <a href=”” target=”_blank”>recently-conducted personnel study</a> was presented to the Council on February 9th. The committee that conducted the study, which included Council members Baldwin, Drew and former Council member Ralph Call, suggested that having a city manager that takes care of all civic duties could add consistency to its leadership instead of being ran by a mayor that may not have the proper background or the necessary time to fulfill his or her responsibilities.

The purpose of the public meetings will be to educate the Providence residents on the issue and listen to public opinion. Pending availability, they may be held at a school where more space is available.

“The public will have a chance to see the draft, ask questions and hear from every one of us,” Calderwood said.

Before the motion was made to cancel the vote, some concerned residents voiced opinions on the proposed ordinance. While many were in favor of hiring a city manager, some strongly opposed the idea. They were concerned the city couldn’t afford to hire a city manager, or that the Council was moving too fast and making an uninformed decision. Some complained the city already had a manager in the past, and that it didn’t work out.

If the Council eventually opposes the change and a mayor-run form of government is kept, citizens in favor of a city manager may still get their way. A petition to pass the ordinance is already being circulated among Providence residents. City attorney Craig Call said that if enough signatures are collected, the proposed ordinance would return to the Council where it will either be passed or rejected. If rejected the ordinance would go to a public vote in November.

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