Press-Republican

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May 24, 2013

Move afoot to explore city-manager idea

PLATTSBURGH — A move is under way to explore the idea of changing the City of Plattsburgh’s form of government.

Longtime property-owner and businessman Neil Fessette is leading an effort to see if there is enough interest to change from a strong-mayor system to a city manager.

“It appears this may be the right time to transform the way our city is governed,” Fessette wrote in a letter he sent out to about 100 taxpayers, business owners and community leaders.

CHANGES AHEAD

With Mayor Donald Kasprzak announcing that he will not be seeking re-election and all six Common Council seats potentially being filled by newcomers in this year’s election, Fessette believes a lack of experience on the new council could be a cause for concern.

“There is no succession plan in place, which is pretty scary considering the complexity of operating a city/business that has a $50-plus million budget and 230-plus employees,” he wrote.

With a city of about 20,000 people and an annual budget of more than $53 million, a professional manager is needed to handle the day-to-day responsibilities instead of an elected mayor, who could be unqualified, Fessette argues.

To change the structure from what is known as a strong-mayor form to a city manager would require a change to the city’s 111-year-old charter.

ADJUSTING THE CHARTER

There are three ways to change the charter: by charter commission, by initiative from the public or by direct Common Council legislation, according to the Department of State.

All three options would require a public vote on items put forth for consideration.

The most commonly used method to change a charter is by commission. That panel, according to state law, must feature between nine and 15 people who live in the city, appointed by the mayor.

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