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Aurora -- There was plenty of community spirit -- and lots of work accomplished -- when nine residents volunteered to take part in the city's charter review commission.
The commission recommends proposed charter changes to City Council, and after they are approved by Council, they head to the November election ballot. The commission had five meetings from February to June.
The commission meets every five years to review the charter and make any changes it deems necessary and appropriate, according to Law Director Dean DePiero. The panel recommended 16 charter changes that will appear on the fall ballot.
DePiero praised members of the charter review commission for their time and effort. They are Dr. Larry Oswick, who served as chairman; Jane Adams, William Keckan, Charisse Louis, Dale Moravec, Nancy Schnell, Liz Sutter, Mary Thomas and Richard Vlasak.
"This commission put a lot of time into their deliberations and came up with some very thoughtful amendments to be considered," DePiero said. "They should be commended for their hard work."
There were various reasons why residents participated. Oswick said he served because of "civic pride and a sense of duty."
KECKAN said Council member Harold Hatridge invited him to serve, and he accepted. He added he previously served on the city's master plan review commission. "I enjoyed that experience," he said.
Thomas said, "It is an honor to serve in the decision-making process in our city government."
Adams said her interest in getting involved in the community was her motivation. "I was nominated by [Council member] Kathi Grandillo and was happy to honor the request," she said.
Schnell said she was asked to serve by Mayor Ann Womer Benjamin. "I considered it my civic responsibility," she said.
Oswick said there was no singular issue that stood out -- "just updating language and aligning it to present day conditions."
Keckan said the commission had "a spirited debate on whether the minimum purchase limit requiring competitive bids should be increased, and if so, what the right amount was.
"What stood out was how well this diverse group worked through their differing opinions while always remaining respectful of each others' position," Keckan said.
Thomas said one issue that stood out to her was the one that would increase the amount necessary to go out for bid on projects from $10,000 to $25,000.
"There was some apprehension on the part of some members to move forward with the increase," she said. "I knew $10,000 was too low from my experiences dealing with vendors and contracts. By increasing the amount, it helps small businesses in the bidding process."
ADAMS SAID the issue that stood out to her was, "Anything that better defines or tightens up charter language allows the mayor, Council and directors to also better define their roles and more effectively do their jobs. Amending the language regarding special elections, vacancies and appointments are examples of this."
Schnell said her main concern was to ensure the city was functioning in compliance with charter requirements.
She said the main questions were: (1) Are city employees, officials and departments doing what they are charged to do? (2) Are they doing anything they are not charged to do? and (3) Are the amendments in order to bring functioning in compliance with the charter?"
Oswick said the entire process was an "excellent experience."
"I addressed all charter review commission members by email and divided the charter into approximately equal parts asking each to review a portion," Oswick said.
Keckan said Oswick "provided excellent leadership" as chairman and the support from DePiero was "invaluable."
"Donna Hawks [clerk of Council] is exceptional with the details of her job and at keeping meetings on course," Adams said. "There was great expertise among the committee members that made for some important exchanges."
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Twitter: Mike Lesko@MikeLesko_RPC