Sunbury is growing up -- and an issue on the Nov. 6 ballot could make it official.
Village voters will be asked to approve the creation of a charter commission as part of a process designed to ease its transition from village to city.
If the commission is created, it would work for about a year to develop a charter proposal that likely would be on the fall 2019 ballot, said village administrator Allen Rothermel.
A charter serves as a city's "constitution," defining the government's powers and responsibilities.
If a charter is approved, it would form the foundation of Sunbury's city government procedures.
An Ohio village automatically becomes a city when its population reaches 5,000, which the village website says is expected to be confirmed by the 2020 U.S. census. The census is held every 10 years. In 2010, Sunbury had about 4,300 residents.
"It's not like this is some political issue. ... The change would happen whether we like it or not," Rothermel said.
Without a charter, Ohio law would require Sunbury to adopt a statutory form of city government. If that happened, Sunbury would start operating under a different set of rules than those used now, he said.
By comparison, a charter to a large degree lets a city write its own rules, Rothermel said.
Delaware County's other two cities -- Delaware and Powell -- operate with charters.
"To stay close to what we have," Rothermel said, "we have to embark on writing up a charter."
He said Village Council members unanimously voted to approve the ballot issue not because they want extensive change, but because they want things to remain the same as much as possible.
Mayor Tommy Hatfield said formation of a charter commission is a "no-lose" proposition for Sunbury residents.
Electing the commission by itself is not a decision to create a charter, he said, but a case of "taking the time to review the options." Using the statutory form of government is among the options, he said.
He emphasized that public input can be considerable during charter commission discussions.
A separate ballot issue Nov. 6 will ask voters to name 15 members of the commission, and the 15 people on the ballot seeking the seats are running unopposed.
The candidates for the charter commission are Patti Cavinee, Cindi Cooper, John Dankovich, J. David Diehl Jr., Anne Frost, Eugene Frost, Michael League, John Maar, Steven Mazzi, Murray Neff, Jodi Norton, Randall J. Rentz, Richard A. Ryba, Daniel Sexton Jr. and Thomas H. Zalewski Sr.
Hatfield said each of the 15 filed a petition with the Delaware County Board of Elections to seek a commission seat, and none is employed by the village.
The commission would meet in public and residents can attend the meetings and weigh in on alternatives.
Allowing such input "truly is the most responsible thing we can do moving forward," he said.
At this stage, Hatfield said, it's best to avoid too much specific speculation, and instead "look at what's best for Sunbury and learn from what others have done."
Sunbury's website says the charter would give a city control over its organizational structure, administrative procedures and other matters.
The charter would determine the composition of city council, legislative procedures, allocation of powers and responsibilities among municipal officials, administrative departments, personnel systems for municipal employees, boards and commissions, finance, debt limitations, elections, and procedures for initiative, referendum and recall petitions.
Rothermel said if approved, the new charter commission would start work almost immediately.