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An unprecedented change in the length of terms for mayor and city council is on its way into the Havre de Grace City Charter as a result of action by the city council Monday.

The council voted 4 to 2 on a resolution to increase the terms of the mayor and council from two to three years. After a phase-in period, election for half the council, the mayor and half the council will occur in succeeding years.

If the resolution stands, it will also mean Havre de Grace, which has held city elections annually for eons, will go at least one year in three without holding an election.

Mayor Wayne Dougherty is not in favor of the resolution but says he doesn’t have any power to stop it.

“Really, I see nothing wrong with the way terms run right now,” Dougherty said Thursday morning. “The problem I have with the charter resolution is the council can, in fact, change the charter with really no citizen input whatsoever.”

During Monday’s meeting, Dougherty read the resolution into the record and later, the council moved to adopt the resolution. After some discussion, the council then voted to adopt the resolution.

Councilman Joseph Kochenderfer supported the resolution.

“I like the idea,” Kochenderfer said during Monday’s meeting.

He also said the resolution would “allow a little bit more continuity.”

“Every time someone new comes in there’s a little bit of a different focus,” Kochenderfer said. “This gives more continuity and is somewhat easier on the staff.”

Councilman Randy Craig and Councilman William Martin voted against the resolution.

“I’m completely opposed to changing the term of office from two years to three years or changing the election process in any way,” Craig said. “Voters can choose that continuity, or lack thereof, by their vote. It takes an opportunity away from citizens to play an active role in city government and I won’t support this.”

Martin agreed.

“For citizens to have the right and input to give a council member a nod or the thumb is probably one of the greatest things our city has in its charter,” Martin said.

In a brief interview Thursday afternoon, Martin explained why he is opposed to the resolution.

“I don’t think it’s a necessary change,” Martin said. “It doesn’t seem to be a mandate from the people at the moment. It doesn’t seem to be a mandate at all.”

Martin would also like the public to have the opportunity to voice their opinions.

“If it ever changes to three years, the only people who should have input is the people and I would really insist upon a referendum if it is necessary for the ballot in May,” Martin said. “I’m opposed to it no matter what. The only people who should have a say is the people.”

Dougherty said he does not have the power to veto the resolution.

“There’s no room for me to veto, believe me, I’ve already checked,” he said.

According to Dougherty, a charter resolution does not require a public hearing, but there can be such a hearing.

“I wanted the public’s input,” Dougherty said during the interview. “That’s why I posed that question: ‘Do I have a motion for a public hearing or public work session on this?’ Bill Martin made the motion, Randy Craig seconded and the council did favor that.”

The council unanimously voted to have a public hearing concerning the resolution at its next council meeting on March 16 at 7 p.m. at city hall.

After hearing comments from the citizens, a council member who voted in favor of the resolution could move to rescind the resolution, Dougherty said.

According to Dougherty, the public has the right to petition the resolution to referendum during the 40-day period following Monday’s meeting.

Dougherty said it would take 20 percent, or about 1,400 of Havre de Grace’s roughly 7,000 voters, to create a referendum.

But if there are not enough votes, the charter resolution would become law on the 50th day following Monday’s meeting. That would not be enough time for the three year terms to be in effect in the May 5 city election,

“This is the sad part about the charter resolution, there’s no room for public input,” Dougherty said. “A charter resolution should be put before the voters. Citizens should be able to speak on something. I believe citizen involvement is very important.”

Also during Monday’s meeting, the Havre de Grace police officers who responded to a robbery at Cecil Bank in the beginning of February were honored with a proclamation.

Dispatcher Mia Kilgore, Capt. Wayne Young, Capt. Roy Mitchell, Sgt. Everett Humphrey and patrol operations were honored.

“Kilgore did a great job getting information from the employee,” Teresa Walter, chief of Havre de Grace police, said. “We all want to be involved and catch people who are involved.”

Walter said the police department doesn’t do any type of yearly recognition of its officers.

“This is a great way for us to recognize our police officers and all that they do,” Walter said. “This is a chance for citizens to hear all about the great things we do.

In other news from Monday’s meeting:

The council unanimously voted to approve the lease of the city’s Tydings Park Concession Stand Facility to Dana E. Caro Jr.

The council also approved a resolution to approve a lease of city property to the Havre de Grace Chamber of Commerce, Inc.

The resolution approves a lease extension for a portion of the city’s building located at 450 Pennington Avenue to the chamber.

A resolution for the purpose of proposing for sale certain real property previously declared as surplus property and no longer needed for any public purpose or public use to Harford Habitat for Humanity, Inc., was also approved.

The declared surplus includes seven lots a part of the Battery Village subdivision. According to Council President Fred Cullum, the lots will be sold for $21,000 each, which is their appraised value, for a total of $147,000.

The next city council meeting is March 16 at 7 p.m. at city hall at 711 Pennington Ave.


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