A timetable and process for drawing up the boundary for a new ward in Grove City is still to be determined, but council members will be able to discuss certain issues in executive session as soon as the passage of the city's charter amendments is certified.
Voters overwhelmingly approved each of five city charter amendments that were on the Nov. 7 ballot. The amendments had been recommended by a charter review task force and placed on the ballot by City Council.
"There wasn't much difference between the five ballot measures. Each passed by roughly a two-thirds vote," said Tim Keck, charter review task force chairman.
"With so many voters indicating they agreed the amendments needed to pass, it validated the work the 13 members of the charter commission put into the process. We considered each proposed amendment carefully before recommending they be put on the ballot," he said.
The most substantial amendment will increase the number of council seats from five to seven, create a fifth ward for the city and add a second at-large seat.
While adding the additional council seats was not a unanimous recommendation of the task force, the majority of members believed Grove City's growth required additional council members and a fifth ward to help ensure a balanced representation of the entire community on council, Keck said.
At large-seats also will be increased from two- to four-year terms.
The current at-large seat will change to a four-year term beginning with the 2021 election, after the next census is taken. The second at-large seat will be added with the 2023 election.
The council member representing the new Ward 5 will be elected to a two-year term in 2023. The seat will then be on the ballot in 2025 for a full four-year term.
"We wanted to make sure that there could be a turnover of city government every two years, with the mayor and three council seats up for election in one year and four council seats in the following municipal election," Keck said.
As stated in the charter, if a council member serving in a ward has his or her home address included in the boundary of the new ward, he or she will be allowed to serve out the remainder of the current term, then be eligible to run for the Ward 5 seat when it is up for election, he said.
The charter already spells out that ward boundaries must be redistricted to within 20 percent of equality as to population.
Exactly what process will be used to carve out the new ward's boundaries has not been discussed yet, but it is likely council will use a geographic information system to help make sure the new ward is crafted as fairly and equably as possible, council President Roby Schottke said.
"It's the same kind of system the school district uses when they redraw their school boundaries," he said.
Voters' approval of the amendment to allow City Council to discuss matters as proscribed by state law behind closed doors puts Grove City in line with virtually every other municipality.
"We were really behind the times. We had a hard time finding one municipality that was anywhere close to the size of Grove City that didn't already have that in place," Keck said.
The inability to discuss certain matters in private has hamstrung council in considering contracts, personnel matters and lawsuits, Schottke said.
"When we were facing the lawsuit with Petland, we couldn't really discuss it because we'd have to do it in public session," he said.
Schottke said he doesn't believe council will go into executive session very often.
"And it's important that people know that no decisions will be made while we're in executive session," he said. "Any vote or decision we make on a matter will be done in public meeting."
Keck said he is pleased voters approved the amendment that makes a review of the charter a regularly scheduled process.
The amendment calls for the next charter review to take place in 2031, and every 10 years afterward.
"It's been more than 30 years since the last time the charter was revised, and Grove City has gone through a lot of changes since then," Keck said. "It just makes sense that every 10 years, you take time to review the charter and make sure it's updated to keep up with changing times."
Each of the charter amendments passed with at least 61 percent of the vote in favor.
In another measure on the Nov. 7 ballot, Grove City voters in precinct 1-A approved a liquor option to permit Sunday sales of wine and liquor at Venue 62, 3995 Broadway.
The liquor option passed by 133 to 49 votes.