03/15/09 — Fremont to make changes to town charter

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Fremont to make changes to town charter

By Anessa Myers
Published in News on March 15, 2009 2:00 AM

According to Fremont's town charter, officials must keep a list of the town's "white voters" separate from its "colored voters."

But officials are hoping to change the legal document establishing the town and its ordinances to an updated, more appropriate one -- and one that could mean slightly stricter ordinances for residents.

The last time the charter was updated was 1913, and parts it date back even before that -- to 1903.

The changes must be approved by the state General Assembly.

Town Manager Kerry McDuffie said that the town just needed to change the century-old wording.

"There were ordinances in the old one that would allow our mayor to hold court and sentence for misdemeanor crimes. ... There are just some inappropriate and outdated parts of it," he said.

There also are ordinances in the old charter that hadn't been updated to abide by current state law.

"There were things that contradicted state law, so we just decided that it would be best to update the whole thing, reset it and move forward," McDuffie said. "If you're going to update ordinances in the town, you should start with the charter. It is the underlying thing that all of the ordinances go back to."

The major differences in updated charter from the old charter are that the updated one will abide by all state laws, inappropriate ordinances will be taken out, and town officials will receive a little more power in dealing with street and sidewalk improvements and junk vehicles.

For example, the old charter states that officials can charge residents up to 30 percent of street improvement costs.

The new charter states that the town is authorized to make street improvements, with certain stipulations, including requirements that the street improvement not exceed 2,000 linear feet and that it be in the public interest to connect two streets.

The updated charter also would give town officials the ability to assess the total cost of the street improvement against abutting property owners.

McDuffie doesn't expect town officials to use the updated street improvement ordinances anytime soon, though.

"I don't see anything coming up anytime soon that we would even use it for," he said. "It's just nice to have the authority to do so if we need to."

The town also didn't have an ordinance for junk vehicles in the old charter, but in the updated one, McDuffie said they will have more authority to help clean up the town.

"We have done some things on enforcement on junk cars, but this gives us more authority," he said.

The new charter states that a junked motor vehicle is one that "does not display a current license plate" and that is:

*partially dismantled or wrecked

*cannot be self-propelled or removed in the manner in which it was originally intended to move

*or is more than five years old and appears to be worth less than $500.

McDuffie said that he expects to hear about the Assembly's decision on the updated charter soon, but doesn't believe its approval will be a problem.

"There's nothing out of the ordinary in it," he said. "It's standard language for a charter."

The town also plans to make changes to some of its ordinances once the charter is passed.

"We are just trying to clean things up and be professional about what we do," McDuffie said. "We aren't where we want to be yet, but we are headed in the right direction."