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Commission wants to change how Claremont is governed

CLAREMONT — The Charter Commission voted 5-3 Friday night to drastically change Claremont’s city government by eliminating the city manager position.

The city is run by a city manager and city council.

The proposed change would replace that form of government with a mayor and alderman-run system that is in place in Manchester and Nashua.

Joe Osgood, Rusty Fowler, Ron Gilbert, Cynthia Howard and Paul LaCasse voted for the motion to convert to a mayor/alderman form of city government while Robert Porter, Raymond Gagnon and Nick Koloski voted against it. Chairman George Caccavaro Jr. didn’t vote.

Osgood said while City Manager Guy Santagate has done many good things for the city, residents are frustrated voters don’t have more control over spending.

“It’s pretty clear to me there is some frustration with the people of Claremont under the current type of government where we have a city manager and council,” said Osgood on Monday. “I am just looking for a way for the people to express their frustration.”

This proposed “strong mayor” form of government is being proposed along with plans to bring back committees that would guide the mayor on matters of finance, public works and pubic safety, Osgood said.

If residents don’t like what the mayor does they can vote him out after two years.

“The bottom line, if people are frustrated and they are not happy with what he is doing, they can vote him out,” Osgood said.

A city manager is hired by city council, runs the city and guides the council.

Gagnon said Monday he voted the measure down because he feels it is too big a change for voters to swallow this November.

“It’s a really heavy sale,” Gagnon said.

Former Claremont mayor Gagnon said running a city has become a specialized, complicated job an elected mayor may or may not be qualified for, he said.

“We’re a small city of 14,000 people and we have a very competent city manager who is very well respected and thought of highly in the world of city managers,” Gagnon said.

The commission was established by voters in November.

In June, the commission is expected to submit a preliminary report to the city and in November voters will have a chance to approve or vote down changes to the charter proposed by the commission.

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