Legislature looks at charter change to merge departments

Montgomery County’s charter may get a face-lift in the coming months.

District 4 Legislator Ryan Weitz, chairman of the legislature’s Education and Government Committee, has been working with County Executive Matthew Ossenfort and others for some time on proposed changes to the charter. At Tuesday’s committee meeting, he talked about a process for amending the charter, and he gave fellow legislators a packet of information.

“We have a lot of things we have to address regarding the charter,” Weitz told legislators Tuesday.

Weitz said the packet given to legislators, which were not yet made public, contains two proposed local laws. One of them would address proposed changes that did not transfer powers and duties from one person to another or one department to another; those could be put in place by means of a local law and would not require a referendum. The second proposed local law, however, deals with the powers and duties of elected officials; those changes would have to be voted on by county residents.

One of the proposals is to combine the mental health, public health and social services departments, as well as the Youth Bureau, into a single department of health and human services, Weitz said. That would maximize the potential for state and federal reimbursement, he said.

Another proposed change deals with the legislature’s annual organizational meeting. As it stands, the county clerk chairs the meeting until legislators elect a chairman for the coming year. The proposed change would have the clerk of the legislature chair the organizational meeting and continue to act as chair of the legislature until a permanent chairman was elected.

The Education and Government Committee will meet again next Tuesday to discuss the charter as a whole as well as the proposed amendments, Weitz said.

John Becker

John Becker is both a Reporter and Consulting Editor for The Compass. He and his wife Pat operate Abbey Farms in Amsterdam NY.