The Southington Town Council has unanimously passed several changes to the town’s ordinances that will alter laws and regulations to meet current day needs – but the changes didn’t come without a lengthy discussion and several disagreements.
Councilman John Barry expressed concerns with several changes made Tuesday night as the council held a public hearing at Southington Town Hall.
Barry expressed praise for members of the committee, saying he agrees with 98 percent of the changes, before bringing several issues to light including an increase in the threshold to hire professional services, changes to a noise ordinance “without teeth” and alterations that would provide the Southington Police Department the power to determine and change the town’s objectionable items list.
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“When you at it quickly, I may seem like the one who always want more involvement by councils and boards,” Barry said.
“With some of these changes, we are empowering people that never have to run for election, and therefore never have to answer to anyone really. I don’t like to give up that kind of power to our paid staff.”
His biggest concern came with the change to the town’s professional services policy, one which would increase the threshold for department heads from $15,000 to $50,000 before a project would have to go out to bid.
Do you know what the town’s new ordinances are? Take a look at the latest ordinances and changes as passed by the town council on Tuesday.
Barry said he’s concerned that the change would allow department heads to set up a “house account” that could provide for preferential treatment in selecting certain vendors. He called the change unnecessary and said that the change would place more decision making in the hands of paid bureaucrats rather than the elected officials who are responsible for oversight of taxpayer money.
The point was countered, however, by Councilwoman and Ordinance Committee Chairwoman Cheryl Lounsbury, who said the real goal of the change is to speed up government process and get things done in a more efficient and effective manner.
“The problem wasn’t money, but was with (the past) management,” Lounsbury said. “We have taken care of that problem. I think sometimes the council absolutely needs oversight, but I also think micromanaging can hinder the process for our town, so this is designed to be a more balanced approach.”
Before 2007 when the $15,000 limit was first established, there was no regulation in place and everything came before the council, however. Barry said the limit was set at $15,000 to try and prevent issue, but believes it was ineffective.
Increasing the limit is only likely to create further issues, Barry said.
“We are just going to have to agree to disagree on this one,” Lounsbury said.
Barry also brought up concerns Tuesday regarding a noise ordinance change that he said would be impossible to enforce. Councilman Peter Romano said it wasn’t intended to “have teeth,” but rather provide the police department in helping enforce regulations and keep the peace.
“A lot of times in the construction industry, companies will want to start before 7 a.m.,” Romano said. “I’ve seen police have to come out. This gives you an opportunity as gentlemen to talk and act as good neighbors.”
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