WILL HAVE TOWN MANAGER
Norwood To Change Its Management of Public Utilities —New Plan Modeled After That Now In Practice In Dayton, O.
Norwood is fast forging to the front as one of the go-ahead progressive suburbs of Boston. The town is growing in population and valuation, and Is keeping abreast of the times in public affairs. It has a fine water supply, good sewerage, a publicly-owned lighting plant, good streets, fine homes, hustling businessmen, a live board of trade and better than all else, a body of citizens who take a pride in their town and work for its betterment, expecting no other reward than the satisfaction that they have contributed the best that is in them for the public weal.
And now Norwood has decided that it will try the town manager plan, which has been adopted by about 15 other American communities, Dayton, O, being the largest community to try the experiment. By a vote of 650 to 403 Norwood voted Tuesday last to adopt the new town charter, authorized by the last Legislature. On the third Monday in January it will choose its new town officials. It is a business man’s idea of running a town that Norwood has decided to try. It is modeled after the Dayton, O, plan. The Selectmen elected next January will employ a manager, who will receive a salary of from $2500 to $4000 a year. The recall has also been embodied in the new charter.
Several Offices Abolished.
The new charter will wipe out the water, sewer and municipal light boards, the Park Commission and the tree warden. The assessors will become an appointive board, and the town clerk and town accountant become one office, and becomes appointive also.
The appointive power will be vested in a board of five Selectmen, and a new elective board of three, designated a Finance Commission, is created.
The town treasurer and tax collector still remain as elective officers, and the town will vote on appropriations the same as ever.
Those who have been interested in the new form of government for the town say that they have no one in mind for the position of town manager, but they hope to see the town employ an engineer who has had experience in dealing with municipal problems. Other municipalities that have adopted the manager plan for running municipal affairs haven’t had any difficulty in getting the right kind of men for the job and with the salary authorized it is not thought that Norwood will have any trouble in finding a competent man for the position.
There was no particular reason why Norwood should depart from the time-honored plan of running its town affairs, except that many of its citizens feel that the time has come when municipal affairs should be run along nonpartisan lines and that an expert is better qualified to run a town than Tom. Dick and Harry, with divided responsibility and little experience in public affairs.
Norwood is not a corrupt town. It is true that recently charges were made against the chief of police for taking money from those whom he had rendered some public service, but that has blown over, and it is the only scandal connected with town affairs in many years.
As Norwood is the first Massachusetts town to try the town manager plan, it will be watched with interest by students of good government throughout the country. The town is well run and its tax rate is only $11, but the proponents of the new move expect to see it run even better and hope to see the town get more for its money than is possible under the old system.
The men behind the new charter and town manager plan are the leading citizens of Norwood—men like George F. Willett, a prominent businessman, who has done much for the town and its civic betterment in many ways. His most notable contribution to the town is the Civic Centre, which enables the young men of the town to get for a small sum yearly many advantages of a social and athletic nature as well as improving their housing conditions.
Several hundred citizens endorsed the proposed change in the form of town government before election, and a citizens’ committee saw to it that those who favored the change were gotten to the polls election day to vote for the adoption of the charter.
The same committee put a big “‘ad” in the local paper and printed the names of the signers favoring the new charter. Through its efficient secretary, John J. Coakley, the committee kept in touch with the voters and conducted a quiet campaign for the adoption of the new charter.
Very little bitterness was developed in the campaign, most everybody being anxious to hear both sides. Even the opposition manifested a desire to listen to the arguments of those who favored the change. Now that the town has voted by a substantial majority for the change, everybody is willing to give the new system of running town affairs a fair and impartial trial.
All agree that the town has an exceptional opportunity to lead the way in Massachusetts for a distinct and business-like administration of public affairs. Centralization of authority and greater economy and efficiency are expected to result. Much of course depends on the kind of a man the Selectmen select for town manager, and for this reason it will be the aim of the new Board of Selectmen to get the very best man they can get for the money available for that office.
Duties of the Town Manager.
The duties of the town manager are set forth in the act of the Legislature. The widest scope for independent action is given him in the new charter, as will be seen in Section 9, as follows:
Section 9. The powers and duties of the general manager shall include the following:
(a) To organize, continue or discontinue such divisions or departments from time to time as may be determined by vote of the selectmen, or in the absence of such voter, as may be determined by said general manager to be required for the efficient conduct of his office;
(b) To appoint upon merit and fitness alone, and, except as herein otherwise provided, to remove all superintendents or chiefs of departments and all subordinate officers and employees in such departments, and to fix all salaries and wages of all subordinates and employees, subject to law. The superintendents or chiefs of departments shall not be removed by the general manager, except on five days’ notice in writing, which shall state the cause of such removal ;
(c) To exercise control over all such departments or divisions so created, or that may hereafter be created, which shall be made subject to the supervision of said general manager;
(d) To attend all regular meetings of the Selectmen, and to recommend to the Selectmen for adoption such measures requiring action by them or by the town, as he may deem necessary or expedient;
(e) To keep full and complete records of the doings of the office, and to render as often as may be required by the Selectmen a full report of all operations during the period reported on; and annually, or oftener if required by the Selectmen, to bake a synopsis of all reports for publication;
(f) To keep the Selectmen fully advised as to the needs of the town within the scope of his duties, and to furnish the Selectmen on or before the 31st day of December of each year a careful, detailed estimate in writing of the appropriations required during the next ensuing fiscal year for the proper conduct of all departments of the town under his control;
(g) To keep in repair the Morrill Memorial Library and all school and other town buildings, and to purchase all supplies for every department of the town, and purchases of supplies for departments over which the general manager has no control shall be made only upon request of said departments and upon requisition therefor by the said departments or their authorized representative:
(hi To perform such other duties, consistent with his office, as may be required of him by the bylaws of the town or by vote of the Selectmen ;
(1) To have the control and supervision of the department of police of the town, subject, however, to the direction of the Selectmen; and the appointment or removal of the chief or head of said police department shall not be subject to the civil service laws of the Commonwealth, but shall be made in accordance with the provisions of this act.
Manager Responsible to Selectmen.
The town manager will be responsible only to the Selectmen, who will have the right to remove him by a majority vote, but they must file with the town clerk, in writing, their reasons for discharge. If he desires to do so the manager may ask for a hearing, and the Selectmen are obliged to grant it. Their decision will be final.
Working with the Selectmen will be a finance commission of three elected by the voters, who will prepare each year a town budget and submit it to the Selectmen. This commission is given power to compel the attendance and testimony of witnesses and the production of documents and papers relating to town affairs.
The usual fines and penalties in such cases are provided in the new charter. Of course, witnesses may refuse to testify on the grounds that such testimony would tend to incriminate them.
The recall is provided for. Two hundred voters signing a petition may start the recall machinery in motion by filing the necessary papers with the town clerk.
Such petition, however, it is provided, cannot be filed within three months after election. Town officials are prohibited from making any contract with the town. Such a contract, If made, Is voidable on the part of the town and a heavy fine and imprisonment faces the guilty official.