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Merrimack Valley

April 22, 2014

Council resumes hearing today

A residency requirement for city employees is on the table

LAWRENCE — The City Council today will resume a public hearing on several proposed amendments to the city charter, including one to require all city and school employees to live in the city.

The council began the hearing last Tuesday and approved four changes to the charter, including one that will forbid councilors from holding any city job or position, regardless of whether they are paid. The council voted 6-2 for the amendment, which is intended to remove the conflicts councilors could feel when matters concerning the agencies they volunteer for come before the council. The charter already forbids councilors from holding paid city positions.

“I think it brings value added to the council,” Councilor Eileen Bernal said in opposing the amendment, referring to councilors who serve the city in unpaid positions. “Any time you get involved in a city department or board that way, you bring more to the table because you’ve had that experience, you’ve met with those board members, you see the struggle of a city department that’s going to have to do a layoff because we’re doing a zero tax increase. It makes you more aware of what’s going on in the city.”

Bernal serves on the board that oversees the city library and will be allowed to continue on the board because the amendment does not apply to councilors holding an unpaid post at the time the ban was approved. Councilors Estella Reyes and Marc Laplante recently served on the Lawrence Redevelopment Authority, but no longer do.

The council will consider a dozen more charter amendments tonight, including one that would allow the council to fill empty seats on city boards and commissions if a mayor fails to fill them within 60 days after they become vacant. Several other proposed amendments are still being reviewed by City Attorney Charles Boddy, including proposals that would extend the two-year terms councilors now serve to three or four years, and another that would remove the mayor from the School Committee.

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