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Hearing on charter set for Thursday


MERIDEN The city's Charter Revision Commission is slated to hold a public hearing at Washington Middle School on Thursday night, marking the first time in the revision process residents will have a chance to comment publicly on the city's governing document.

The hearing, which will begin at 5:30 p.m., will allow residents to tell commission members about any aspect of the City Charter that they would like to see changed. A neighborhood group received enough signatures on a petition earlier this year to force the City Council to create the commission, which is charged with examining whether to give city residents a referendum vote on any city project totaling $1 million or more. The commission can also examine any other areas it deems necessary.

Two public hearings will take place before the commission begins any substantive work at deciding whether the charter should be amended. The next hearing will be on Sept. 7, and besides the referendum issue, commission Chairman Gerard I. Adelman isn't sure what residents will want to discuss.

"I imagine some people may want to talk about the mayor versus city manager form of government," Adelman said. "Other than that, I'm not aware of any particular issues people are concerned about, but that's the whole purpose of the public hearing."

The seven-member commission will listen to the residents' concerns and not have a preset limit as to how many people can speak and for how long they can talk. But if the discussion is getting repetitive, the commission may ask them to "come to the point," Adelman said. "It's going to be wide open," he added.

Commission member David A. Fordiani also has no idea what the commission will hear from residents, but welcomes their ideas on how to make the city better. No one has approached him so far, but he is still hoping for a large turnout on Thursday.

"I hope there's a lot of people there, and I hope there's a very diverse group of people, not just people interested in the initial referendum issue," Fordiani said. "I'm prepared to sit there and listen and listen to other people's ideas about how the charter could be or should be changed."

Council of Neighborhoods Board of Directors President David Swedock gathered a number of signatures on a petition to force the formation of the Charter Revision Commission, but the leader said Tuesday afternoon he does not believe the process will result in any changes.

"This is designed to fail. Plus, they have it at 5:30," Swedock said. "This thing is just contrived, and they don't want to hear anything from the public. If you want to get some valid concerns or valid things from the public, make it at 7 p.m. so everyone can attend."

Commission members voted in July to allow the public hearings to go until 8 p.m., so everyone has a chance to speak, but Swedock doesn't see the point. The neighborhood association leader feels the revision process is just a "designed failure."

"I knew this was coming from day one," Swedock said. "I'm not optimistic at all about this process."

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