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Published: Thursday, 4/7/2005

Fostoria council seeks new charter, city manager

FOSTORIA - City Council thinks it's time for a change in Fostoria's government structure.

At a meeting on Tuesday, council discussed developing a city charter that would include replacing the safety-service director's position with a city manager.

Council President Joe Droll said yesterday that he and his colleagues want a role in hiring and firing the city's top administrative officer. The safety-service director is appointed solely by the mayor, who also has the power to dismiss him.

Mayor John Davoli exercised that prerogative March 18 when he terminated safety-service Director Ralph Wise.

Mr. Droll said council's interest in a city manager wasn't prompted by Mr. Wise's departure, but his dismissal and the search for a permanent replacement highlights the need for a more representative selection process. "Right now, under the system that we operate under, the mayor, it's strictly done by him by appointment," Mr. Droll said. "So right now, I just feel it's an unfair representation of the citizens. The citizens elected seven members of council and myself, the president, as well as the mayor."

Mr. Droll said council plans to set the parameters for a 15-member commission that would draft a proposed city charter. Voters would have to approve creation of such a commission and would elect its members, he said.

Any proposed charter would also require voter approval.

"We're putting it out to the public," Mr. Droll said. "We want everybody to talk about it."

The council president said a revised governmental structure could take several forms.

"That'll be up to that commission to decide," he said. "There's many different forms - strong mayor, weak mayor, city manager only. ... We're just trying to come up with the tools to get it started."

Mr. Davoli expressed reservations about the idea and said the city has more immediate needs to address, such as working with the Fostoria Economic Development Corp. to attract businesses.

"I think a line is being blurred a little bit between the executive and legislative branches of government," he said. "I'm not saying I'm against a charter, but we have more pressing problems in town. ... I think we'd be better served to get a committee together and help [FEDC Director] Tony Allen bring new jobs to town."

In response, Mr. Droll said, "We have that in place. We have members of council who sit on FEDC. And understanding that that's important, we still need to pursue this avenue."

Mr. Davoli said he thought council's discussion of a city charter was a "knee-jerk reaction" to Mr. Wise's departure and disciplinary problems with former police Chief Dennis Day, who was fired last summer.

"The system does work," he said. "It just needs strong leadership to make it work. ... Part of it is control. Different people want control over it. I don't care who controls it, as long as Fostoria gets better."



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