First Selectman’s Update

Print More
Melissa Mack

Melissa Mack

I’ve often found cold winter months are an ideal time to tend to less glamorous chores around the house like organizing. It’s no different at Town Hall with one such project underway. The Town’s Ordinances were last published in 1986. Since that time, a simple three-ring binder has been used to accumulate changes and additions to the Town’s book of rules and regulations. I’m sure the binder was never intended as a 30-year solution. As one might imagine, our Codes in this messy and disorganized state are difficult to follow and place the Town and its residents at risk for noncompliance. This is yet another example of the popular “Band-Aid” approach that, unfortunately, Suffield often undertakes with projects. As I frequently state, one of my primary goals in becoming First Selectman was to improve our Town’s governance practices. With that goal in mind, it’s time to upgrade that three-ring binder!

The project actually began about 18 months ago when Town Clerk Kathy Dunai obtained funding via grant through the Connecticut Small Town Economic Assistance Program (STEAP). With funding in hand, we hired a company (General Code) which organized all of our ordinances into a book similar to what one would find for legal use. General Code unearthed numerous inconsistencies through the effort which now need to be addressed before work is finalized. Specifically, 79 pages of proposed revisions to Suffield’s Code need to be considered. Examples include inconsistent terminology, incorrect references, contradictions with Suffield’s Charter and the Connecticut General Statutes, etc. Throughout this process, we have engaged Town Attorney Derek Donnelly for his legal expertise. He advised that it is inappropriate for a Town Attorney to have final say on the proposed revisions, but instead recommends consultation with Town departments and the public. The most transparent way is to create an Ordinance Review Committee to hold public meetings, review proposed revisions and make recommendations to the Board of Selectmen for action. At this writing, we are seeking detail-oriented residents, preferably with law backgrounds, to be appointed to the committee by the Board of Selectmen. With only 100 days contractually agreed upon to respond to the questions outlined, we are moving swiftly to form the committee. The five-member group will begin its work in February with conclusion by mid-June. At that point, General Code will produce a final book of ordinances for the Town of Suffield.

Work such as this, as I mentioned, is not glamorous, but is essential to the day-to-day governance of our community. It is also the first crucial step needed before the Town undertakes another Charter Review as many residents, including prior First Selectmen, have requested. Their desire includes discussion of the possibility of a Town Manager. I appreciate everyone’s patience as we organize our Town Code so that important Charter Review deliberations take place in a meaningful, productive and cost-efficient manner.

Comments are closed.