A Monday deadline looms, but few signatures have been turned in at the Manchester Town Hall for a petition to bring to referendum a charter amendment that shifts power from the mayor and town manager to the Town Council.
The charter amendment was passed by Town Council on Sept. 14. It will take effect Nov. 3, unless 20 percent of Manchester's registered voters sign the petition by Monday.
As of yesterday, 1,311 Manchester residents were registered to vote. If that figure does not change by Monday, 262 signatures will be needed for the petition to succeed.
Ten people had signed a copy of the petition hanging on a bulletin board in the Town Hall, as of yesterday afternoon. No other signatures had come into the town office, said Assistant Zoning Administrator Miriam DePalmer.
If the petition drive succeeds, Manchester residents will be able to vote on the charter amendment.
But even if the charter amendment survives the challenge, it may bring little change to the day-to-day operations of the town.
"Whether this thing goes to referendum or not, I plan to try to carry on as we are now," Mayor Earl A.J. "Tim" Warehime Jr. said yesterday.
The Manchester charter says the town manager may be fired by the mayor with the approval of the council, or by a four-fifths vote of council.
The charter amendment would allow the council to fire the town manager on a simple majority vote, without the approval of the mayor.
Mr. Warehime said yesterday he doesn't believe the amendment would allow the council to fire Town Manager Terry Short. He said Mr. Short has a written contract for a term lasting until June 30.
The charter amendment would also require the town manager to report to the Town Council and the mayor, instead of to the mayor alone. The town manager would have to seek council approval to hire and fire town employees.
The charter amendment would also prevent the town manager from speaking at council meetings, unless asked to speak by the council. The town manager could not undertake research or make reports or recommendations, except at the request of the mayor or council.
However, Mr. Warehime said yesterday that if the amendment stands, he will ask the town manager to continue offering comments during council meetings and through research, reports and recommendations.
Councilman Robert Kolodziejski, who voted against the charter amendment in September, said Monday he had gathered fewer than 30 signatures for the petition.
Councilman Douglas Myers, who supported the amendment, said yesterday that the petition should not have been publicized in the town newsletter or made available for signatures in the Town Hall.
Ray Unger, an unsuccessful candidate in the May council election, said yesterday he has gathered "a few" signatures.
He said the council voted for the town manager form of government, but then did not give Mr. Short the support needed to see if the new form of government would work.
He said many residents he has spoken with do not understand the charter amendment.
"I don't think they see the importance of what that amendment did," said resident Christopher D'Amario, who opposed the charter change at the September council meeting.
Mr. D'Amario said he has not involved himself in the petition drive because he was wanted to avoid potential conflict with his role as a member of the town ethics commission, to which he was appointed Sept. 14.