Last April, the Board of Selectmen formed the Town Government Study Committee and gave the group a daunting charge. The committee received the task of critically looking at the structure of Wrentham’s government and see if changes should be made. The first step for the committee was to learn how to tackle such a challenge. That's how the group spent its summer. "For the past two or three months we've been embarcking on this education phase," explains Jerry McGovern, chair of the committee.
The seven member group learned many towns have already done something similar and this has proven to be a real help. "Because so many towns have gone through this, there are a lot of lessons learned and people we can talk to tell us what worked well and what didn't," McGovern says.
One of the things the committee learned is that this isn't an overnight process. According to McGovern, most towns need 12 to 18 months to reach the point where recommendations can be made and a finished product is put in front of people for a vote. The process could take even longer if the committee recommends, and Wrentham voters agree, that the town needs to develop a charter. "We've been very careful not say that this is a charter thing," McGovern says. "It may become a charter. That may be one of the recommendations, but we're not simply marching towards a charter at this moment."
Other possible outcomes include bylaw changes, or moving authority within the town government. At this time, those recommendations are a long way off. There are other steps that need to be taken to get to that point.
The next phase will require a great deal of town participation. The committee will begin collecting data by interviewing Wrentham's boards, committees and departments. In an effort to glean insights in how the town operates, the interviews will be conducted by six functional groupings; Administrative/Executive, Financial Management, Land Use and Public Works, Public Safety, Culture and Recreation, and Public Education."We're going to interview them that way and get more of a group dynamic going," McGovern says.
In addition to speaking to the formal Town entities, the committee will survey the citizens of Wrentham starting this month through October. Five areas will be specifically examined; authority and responsibilities, organizations and relationships, communications, process and tools and performance management. "The citizens should know they'll be hearing from us to fill out a survey talking about town government," McGovern says.
In November and December the data collection phase will turn into an analysis phase. Students at Clark University will help analze the data and the committee will start to formulate its recommendations for presentation to the Board of Selectmen in January. This will be followed in February by public meeting. Based on the feedback received, the committee will develop final recommendations in March and April. A second public hearing will be held in May with the target of presenting recommendations in the form of Warrant Articles at the Annual Town Meeting in June 2013.
Before the committee is ready to think about the June Town meeting, it needs to prepare for this next phase of data collection. "Now that the committee has gone through an education phase, it’s ready to take on the data collection process," says McGovern. "It will require the help and involvement of just about everyone in town."
To view the Town Government Study Committee's PowerPoint presentation to the Board of Selectman last month click here.