Grove City voters will consider whether to approve changes to the city's charter that would expand city council to seven members and allow the council to meet in closed-door sessions.

Five ballot measures to amend the city charter are on the Nov. 7 ballot. If any of the measures are approved, they would be the first changes to the charter in more than 30 years.

A charter review task force was appointed in May 2016 to review the charter. That group presented its recommendations of proposed amendments in February.

City Council voted in July to place the recommendations on the November ballot as five separate issues.

"They are not tied together. They will rise or fall by themselves, depending on the voters," said Timothy Keck, chairman of the task force.

The most substantial amendment would increase the number of council seats from five to seven, creating a fifth ward for the city and adding a second at-large seat if voters approve.

If it is approved, the terms of at-large seats would also be increased from two to four years.

"The question of expanding the number of council seats was a deeply divided vote on the charter task force, as it was when council voted to place it on the ballot," Keck said. "This issue probably had more debate on the task force than any other."

Proponents suggested Grove City's growth -- with a population of more than 30,000 -- demands more representation on council, he said.

"A lot of communities that have a much smaller population base have seven members on council," Keck said. "The proponents felt it would be good governance to have more representation.

"The con argument was that this was a solution looking for a problem," he said. "There's also the added expense -- you'd be paying ($11,000) salaries and benefits for each additional council member."

Both the task force and council had split votes on this amendment, Keck said.

"It will be for the residents to decide if this is something they want," he said.

Task force members were in agreement about expanding at-large terms to four years, Keck said.

"Especially for someone who is new to city government, with a two-year term, you'll just getting up to speed on council rules and how things work on council and it's time to run for office again," he said. "The feeling was it's an unfair burden on the at-large members to have to run every two years."

As proposed, the current at-large seat would change to a four-year term beginning with the 2021 election. The second at-large seat would be added with the 2023 election. The Ward 5 council member would be elected first to a two-year term in 2023 then in 2025 for a full four-year term.

Another proposed amendment would allow council to go into executive session to discuss issues as allowed by state law.

The charter task force could find no other example of a community where a city council does not have the ability to discuss sensitive issues in private, Keck said.

"This would be just for discussion. All votes and decisions on issues would take place in the regular public meeting," he said.

The amendment would give council the ability to discuss matters such as employee performance, lawsuits, contract negotiations and land purchases in private, Keck said.

Other ballot measures would amend the charter so that public meeting announcements could be posted in public locations or online but not required to be published in a local newspaper, remove the mayor as a voting member of the planning commission and replace him with a resident, and state that the mayor cannot veto resolutions adopted by city council.

A fifth ballot measure includes a potpourri of minor changes to the charter.

"These are mainly housekeeping measures, things that make the language in the charter clearer and easier to understand," Keck said.

The city will hold a public meeting to review the proposed charter amendments at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 23 at the Grove City Library, 3959 Broadway.

Residents can also review or download a red-lined version of the charter sections reflecting the proposed changes at grovecityohio.gov.

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