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Charter draft to go to public hearing in August

July 06, 2007|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

WASHINGTON COUNTY - The Charter Board of Washington County is putting the finishing touches on the final draft of its county charter.

At a meeting Thursday night, the nine-member board approved most of its 20-page draft charter, which would serve as the county's governing document if voters approve it in an election.

The board's current draft would change Washington County's governing body from a board of commissioners to a seven-member county council. The council would include five district representatives and two at-large members. All would serve four-year terms.

The charter draft does not include a county executive, which some counties include under charter rule.

"We discussed it on the forum, and the general consensus from taxpayers was that it was too expensive," said Jeanne Singer, the board's chairwoman.

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A switch to charter home rule would lessen the county's dependency on state legislators when creating some local laws, county officials have said.

While a board of commissioners has to submit many requests for law changes to the state, the county would be governed according to what is written in the charter if it is passed. County voters would have the ability to challenge some laws by referendum.

The issue of changing to charter home rule in Washington County has gone to the ballot twice in the past 30 years. Charters were proposed and drafted in 1977 and 1988. They were voted down both times, though the charter came within 2,600 votes of passing in 1988.

Singer said the board will present their final draft charter to the county's residents during several public hearings in August. She will then take the charter to the county commissioners for approval in October. If approved, it would be placed on the ballot in February's general election.

The charter board meets every other Thursday. Their next meeting is scheduled for July 19, when Singer said they hope to approve a final draft charter and set a schedule for public hearings.

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