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Slim attendance at second town hall

October 3, 2018
J.T. Whitehouse , The Town Crier

A dozen residents and city officials attended the Sept. 26 town hall meeting at Fair Park to learn more about the two charter amendments that will be on the November ballot for city voters.

The ballot issues involved changing the term limits for council members from the existing two years to four. The second issue was changing the number of terms a council person could hold consecutively from three to four.

"You could have a 'good ole boy' mentality at the council level," said resident Ron Dellapenna. "Sixteen years is a long time and leaves the city open for that kind of control."

The 16 years he was talking about could take place if both ballot issues are approved. If the term length issue is approved, but not the number of terms failed, members of council could serve up to 12 consecutive years. Should the length of a term fail, but the number of terms pass, then it would be up to eight consecutive years.

With the low turnout at the meeting, City Manager Wade Calhoun, Mayor Richard Duffett, and Councilman Bruce Neff made it an informal meeting as the nine residents questioned the issues.

Among the residents was Frank Micchia, who sponsored the ballot issues to change the term limits several years ago.

"Sixteen years is a long time," he said. "These are not careers. Two-year terms have been working fine and now we are looking at changing that. At present voters have the option to review a council person every two years. I say to voters, do not pass these amendments."

Karyn Fredrick asked Micchia what happened to make him push the two-year term limits. Micchia replied, "I felt council at the time was not representing the people."

Fredrick was the only one present from the 2018 charter review commission that recommended the term limit changes. They actually had a total of four recommendations that were all talked about at the meeting.

The first change was a move to use electronic formats for city notices and communications. At present the law requires notices in local papers and/or radio and television.

"This was something we passed by a motion at the Aug. 15 meeting," Calhoun said.

He said it was a no-brainer and something that didn't require a ballot vote of the electorate.

The other recommendation that won't appear on the ballot in November involves term limits for the Mayor. Duffett was the one who said he felt it would be too much to put on the ballot at once, so it was held back.

As for the two recommendations that will be before voters, Councilman Bruce Neff said, "My main concern is in the last election all five seats were up at the same time. A takes a while to get your feet on the ground. We need to go back to four years."

He also mentioned the need to stagger the terms so not all five seats are up at once. Fredrick said the Charter Review Commission had discussed that already.

"We looked at staggered terms," she said. "We have to follow the state law and hold elections on the odd years. We thought we needed to deal with the [term length and numbers] right now. Staggered terms are on the radar."

The talk did drift off the term limits for a short time as residents wanted to address issues such as the Red Gate Farm and the Joint Economic Development Districts such as Millennial Moments that will feature residential and some commercial on U.S. 224. The concern was for the center of town also, and why it is not attracting businesses.

"We have hired Town Center Associates from Beaver Pennsylvania," said Calhoun. "They are looking at the historic district around the Village Green."

He said the company is helping to develop the strategic plan and part of it deals with marketing the city and what it has to offer. Calhoun noted that cities with all offices tend to shut down at 5 p.m. He said Canfield needs to attract more evening businesses.

Mayor Duffet added, "I will be starting the Mayor's Business Forum in two weeks to see how we can improve the business district."

The conversation quickly came back to the fact that to make improvements and attract more business will require more than a two-year term for city council.

For those who didn't make the first two Town Hall meetings, the city is planning two more prior to election day. The next Town Hall will be at MCCTC's Joyce Brooks Center at 6 p.m. on Oct. 9. The final Town Hall has been set for Nov. 1 at 6 p.m., but it could be moved to another location later this month.



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