Grove City voters may be asked to approve changes to the city charter that would expand city council to seven members and add a fifth ward.

The council expansion is one of a number of recommended changes to the city charter the Charter Review Task Force has presented.

The next step would be for City Council to vote on placing any proposed charter amendments on the ballot, as any change to the charter must have voters' approval.

The task force began meeting last summer and completed its review of the charter in February.

"A lot of the changes we recommend are simple housekeeping measures," said Steve Robinette, who served as the task force chairman until his appointment to City Council in January. Timothy Keck served as chairman for the task force's final two months.

The recommended changes include:

* The expansion of council from five to seven members. The recommendation is to create a Ward 5 for the city and a second at-large seat. The current at-large seat would become a four-year term in 2021. The new at-large seat, also with a four-year term, and the new Ward 5 seat would be added for a two-year term in 2023. Candidates for Ward 5 would run for a full four-year term in 2025, completing the transition to a seven-seat council. After that, voters would choose Ward 1, 3, 5 representatives and an at-large council member during one election year and representatives for Ward 2, 4, the other at-large seat and the mayor in the other city election year. City elections are held during odd years.

* Removing a specified salary amount for council members and the mayor from the charter since the charter already states council can vote by ordinance to adjust the compensation. The salary change would not become effective for an elected official until after their next term of office begins.

* Requiring that city council confirm the mayor's appointments to city commissions and boards.

* Changing the responsibility for submitting the city budget proposal from the administrative assistant to the mayor, who would consult with the administrative assistant and finance director in the preparation of the budget. It would also require that the budget be presented no later than Nov. 15. The charter currently requires the budget to be presented no later than Dec. 7.

* Giving city council the ability to go into executive session to discuss issues as allowed under state law.

* Requiring charter reviews to be conducted every 10 years. There is currently no set time for when the charter should be reviewed. The charter was last amended in the 1980s.

The recommendation to increase the number of council members was not a unanimous vote among task force members, Robinette said.

"Those who supported it felt the city has grown and there needs to be a larger council to better serve the community," he said. "Others felt we have sufficient representation on council now."

Allowing council to go into executive session would bring Grove City in line with most communities whose governing bodies have that option, Robinette said.

"It would be appropriate for council to have the change to discuss issues like personnel matters, contract negotiations or land deals in executive session as state law allows," he said.

"In a matter like a real estate deal, having to discuss it in open session may make it harder to get the best deal."

"When you're talking about a personnel matter or a contract negotiation, it can be a little awkward to have to do that in a public setting," council President Roby Schottke said.

Moving up the date when the budget must be presented to council would allow for a less hurried consideration of the document, he said.

"We ended up having three budget hearings this year and to have to do that in such a short period of time was difficult to schedule," Schottke said.

Council's schedule for considering the recommended charter amendments will include one, possibly two, special council meetings, he said.

The first special meeting would be scheduled for late April, Schottke said. The number of recommendations may require a second special meeting, he said.

Council would likely vote in May on whether to send any charter measures to the November ballot, he said.

It is possible the charter amendments would be split into multiple ballot issues, Schottke said.

One ballot issue might include the minor "housekeeping" measures that would simply clean up language, modernize the charter or bring it into line with current state law, he said.

One or more issues could address the more significant recommended amendments.

Council might choose to place some amendments on the ballot while opting not to forward others, Schottke said.

As during the task force meetings, residents are encouraged to participate and voice their opinion as council considers which, if any, of the amendments to put before voters, he said.

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