Uxbridge voters set to modernize their Town Charter
Charter Review Committee
UXBRIDGE – Uxbridge voters will meet on Wednesday, October 27, in a dedicated session of their Fall Town Meeting to consider and vote on changes to the Town Charter.
The Charter, first adopted in 2000, under provisions of Massachusetts General Law 43B and updated in 2010 serves as the town’s “Constitution” which defines the structure of town government, and powers and duties of town officials. Nine Uxbridge residents were appointed in March 2020 by the School Committee, Selectmen and Moderator and tasked with reviewing and updating the Charter.
The Charter Review Committee held 30 public meetings over the past year during which 19 current and past town officials and employees were interviewed and input was received from the community. The committee then incorporated those diverse inputs and views and entered into deliberations with guiding principles: a) of addressing long-term issues in town government; b) ensuring checks, balances, oversight and accountability; c) increasing governmental transparency; d) transitioning regulatory, taxing and fee-setting Boards from appointed positions to elected by voters.
The result is a series of articles to be taken up by voters in the extended town meeting. The proposed changes are intended to create a governing framework that will be consistent with contemporary values and resolve inconsistencies and inadequacies in the current document. A cosmetic change will bring the town into the modern era by renaming the town’s executive body to the gender-neutral “Select Board.” Other changes refine the number of members and on various boards, committees, and commissions and reorder whether they are to be appointed or elected.
If approved by the voters, the most significant change will be the establishment of a Board of Public Works to provide focused oversight of the Highway, Water, and Wastewater Departments along with the assorted other “housekeeping” functions of the Department of Public Works. Special legislation will be sought to establish this board as a five-member body rather than the three members anticipated by the enabling legislation so that a more diverse range of experiences and interests may be brought to bear.
Mundane, but still important, changes will add a human resources position to oversee personnel matters, establish a “sunset” provision to automatically de-establish archaic or non-functioning boards or committees. Other changes will add a new tool for accountability, strengthen and regularize the auditing of town accounts, and increase the transparency of government by stronger public posting requirements for town documents.
Charter reviews are a once-in-a-decade event so the government structure put in place by the voters will function for the next ten years.