SYKESVILLE — Revising the town charter to keep up with changes and state laws wasamong the mayor's seven goals when he took office.
Ten years and three terms later, Lloyd R. Helt Jr. will move toward the last of those goals tomorrow at 7 p.m. at the Town Council meeting.
Among the issues to be examined are the number of council members, voter registration and nominations, how vacancies are filled, the passage of ordinances and new employee positions.
"The charter was adopted in 1964, and it's still basically the same, except for a few amendments here and there dealing with annexations, voter registration, infractions and compensation to town officials," he said.
A six-member council has presented problems in recent years, Helt said. The mayor now has veto power, but no vote, on ordinances. The previous council deadlocked on vital issues, such as the budget and financing for the Raincliffe Center.
"This is the only council in the state I know of with an even-numbered council where the mayor does not havea tie-breaking vote," he said.
An odd-numbered council would eliminate ties, or the council could remain at six members and the mayor be given a vote.
The council also might seek to restructure town government by going to a council-manager form, where the mayor sits asa council member and the town manager runs day-to-day operations.
"What we have is a hybrid. I run the day-to-day operations, with thetown manager answerable to me -- but I also have veto power," Helt said.
He said he wants to revise the method of ordinance adoption. The charter calls for ordinances to be introduced at a meeting, then passed at a later date, except in an emergency, but fails to define "emergency," he said.
The charter calls for the council to appoint mayoral and council replacements, but Helt suggests calling a specialelection.
The nomination process also needs to be examined, Helt said.
"All you need is one registered voter to nominate you, another to second it, and you're on our ballot," he said. "Nominations arein April and the election in May. I'm not one for long campaigns, but three weeks is ridiculous."
The charter should be updated to include several town employees, including the town manager and police chief, hired after it was written, Helt said.
The charter also needsto be revised in such areas as voter registration and town condemnation of property to reflect current state law, Helt said.
"The charter was taken as a form document from the state code and needs to be looked at piece by piece to meet the town's needs," said Town Attorney Dennis J. Hoover, who will analyze the charter and write a new one.
Council President Kenneth W. Clark agrees the charter needs to beupdated, but said he is concerned about the potential cost.
"If we find the cost figures too high, maybe it's not appropriate right now with the budget cuts to be doing it," he said.
Helt plans to present his suggestions to the council, then to ask for members' recommendations. He wants to conduct workshops to discuss the charter the fourth Monday of each month, beginning in January, until the work is complete.
"I hope the citizens will start discussing the charter," Helt said. "We want input from the citizens on this. And if anyone wants a copy of the charter, we'll see they get one. And the public is certainly invited to the meetings."
If the charter is revised, it will be introduced, advertised and a public hearing held. The Town Council will vote on the new charter.
If residents are dissatisfied, they could petition that the charter be put to a referendum at the next election, Helt said.