Fulton County

Johnstown mayor appoints charter review panel

A commission appointed by Johnstown Mayor Michael Julius will begin reviewing the city’s charter at
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A commission appointed by Johnstown Mayor Michael Julius will begin reviewing the city’s charter at the end of January in what he is calling a much-needed housecleaning.

A 15-member Charter Review Commission was appointed Monday at the Common Council’s reorganizational meeting to review and clarify the authority of the each of the city’s departments.

“It’s basically a housekeeping kind of thing,” said Julius. “They’re going to redefine and tighten up all these different departments that are listed in our charter.”

The project is expected to cost about $30,000, he said. Other than the passage of time, he said there was no specific problem or event that prompted the review.

“It hasn’t been done in about 15 years, and things have changed,” he said.

While the board will be redefining the scope and authority of each department, Julius said the review will not result in any layoffs.

The commission consists of “general citizens of the city” with various backgrounds and experience, according to the mayor.

Vernon Jackson, a member of the last charter revision commission, was appointed chairman, with Fredrick Franko as co-chairman and City Clerk Cathy VanAlstyne as secretary.

In choosing commission members, Julius said he was looking for “a like-mindedness and people that are fully committed to the city.”

Jackson, a retired federal employee, said the last review, in 2000, took five to six months and cut a 325-page charter down to 125 pages.

“We took out a lot of stuff that was old, that didn’t even apply anymore,” he said, “and just sat down with department heads and said, ‘What would you like to change?’ And they gave us the recommendations.”

Changes included revising the budget schedule and modifying job descriptions, said Jackson, as well as smaller updates like changing the outdated title “City Chamberlain” to “City Treasurer.”

There were no layoffs as a result of that revision, he said.

The commission will work with an attorney, as well as consultant Gerald Benjamin, associate vice president for regional engagement at SUNY New Paltz, who specializes in municipal charter revision.

At this point, Jackson could not speculate about changes that may be made this time around.

“I really won’t know a lot until we sit down with this Dr. Benjamin, because he’s reviewing it now,” he said.

Julius expects this review to take six months at most. The revised charter will have to go before the public as a referendum item in November and would take effect Jan. 1, 2016, if voters approve it.

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