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Bronson cleaning up its charter

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Next workshop Jan. 27

The last time the Bronson Town Council updated its charter — the framework of its government — it was 1951. Like most 63-year-olds, it might need to change with the times. 

While the town has been around much longer than the current Charter's adoption, the document itself has not been changed since 1951. For now, the council is relying on the staff to suggest changes in the charter and Monday's workshop offered no changes from the staff on the first six sections. 

Most of the discussion in a Monday Town Council workshop on the charter attended by four of the five members was on difficult and somewhat confusing wording regarding terms of office and pay raises, and the mention of city positions that are not used.  Councilman Aaron Edmondson was absent due to a vehicle breakdown out of town.

It was Section 7 that drew the most scrutiny and discussion. It establishes the council membership and the election of a “mayor-commissioner.” 

It also calls for the appointment of a town clerk and a town attorney, which it has. But it also calls for appointment of a town treasurer, a tax collector, and the election of a tax assessor “and such other officers as may be created by ordinance....” The tax assessor's position has been rendered null by a state law putting that job in the hands of the Levy County Property Appraiser's office. On Monday, the council discussed changing the wording.

The sticking point in Section 7 came on the portion saying “provided that no officer's salary shall be decreased or increased during his or her term of office; provided however, that the town council and mayor-commissioner of the town of Bronson may by ordinance provided for the election of the above named officials.” Council members were not sure whether it covered the town clerk, but decided it did not since she is an “at will” employee rather than an elected official. 

Then the discussion boiled down to who would be affected by the pay increases or salary increases with the council deciding it referred to them. 

Town Attorney Steven Warm said, “What we're down to could you guys vote yourselves a raise during your current terms of office?”

Mayor Franklin Schuler said, “We have done that before.”

Later Warm said, “As I read the charter you cannot.” But Warm said the last pay change the council approved was a “per meetng” pay schedule. 

And at City Clerk Kelli Brettle's observation that in a tough eonomy the council might need to cut its pay, Warm endorsed her position, “If you had to tighten your belt, why wouldn't you be able to reduce your salary?”

Councilwoman Beatrice Roberts said she thought it would ot be fair for the council to approve an increase and hold it back doe to a term of office issue. 

Councilman Bruce Greenlee settled the discussion with the observation, “Striking it would definitely fix our problem.” 

Warm's advice to the council: “Forget what it was, figure out what you want it to be.”

The Council meets again on Monday, Jan. 27, at 5 p.m. in the Dogan Cobb Municipal Building to take up other sections of the charter and to discuss whether the  entire charter is to be on the ballot or whether voters would be given the opportunity to vote on the individual changes. 

The town also plans to hold town halls to present any proposed changes to residents before going to a vote.