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Richmond and Hopkinton to talk about changes to Chariho Act

RICHMOND — The Richmond Town Council has accepted Hopkinton’s invitation to sit down and discuss possible changes to the Chariho Act. The first meeting is expected to take place in the next two weeks.

After years of being rebuffed every time he tried to engage Hopkinton and Charlestown in a discussion of how the law might be amended, Richmond Council President B. Joseph Reddish wasted no time in responding to the invitation. Reddish explained at the council meeting this week that he had already responded to Hopkinton Council President Frank Landolfi’s invitation.

“Hopkinton has indicated that they do want to sit down with us to discuss it,” Reddish said. “I did reach out to the president of their council today, and they want to discuss the matriculation change, and they want to discuss the change in the size” of the School Committee.

Councilor Erick Davis, who has long advocated such talks, said he had also spoken with Landolfi.

“I spoke with Frank this morning, and we agreed on a couple of people from each council at first, and then if there was a common ground, we could bring it to the full councils…I would like to be one of those people,” he said.

Richmond is drafting two bills, one that would amend the current matriculation provision in the Chariho Act that requires children to attend elementary schools in the towns where they live, and a second that would reduce the School Committee from 11 members to nine. The membership on the nine-member regional School Committee would still be based on each town’s population.

“It wouldn’t be three, three and three,” Finance Director Dave Krugman noted. “It would be nine members, based on population.”

The town has asked state Rep. Larry Valencia, D-District 39, to introduce the bills in the General Assembly. Hopkinton supports the proposed changes, and would like to explore other amendments to the Chariho Act.

Charlestown has opposed any changes to the act, but Davis said he had nevertheless asked to meet with Charlestown Town Council President Thomas Gentz.

“I did send an email to Tom Gentz this morning to ask if I could sit down and talk to him, because I know that, especially at the omnibus meeting, there was a point where Charlestown really seemed to be at odds with some of my comments,” he said. “We’ve got the legislation going forward. I’d love to find a common ground.”

The omnibus meeting, which took place on Jan. 15, is the annual public meeting of member towns, the School Committee, legislators and Chariho administrators.

Davis described Hopkinton’s unexpected invitation as a pleasant surprise.

“I was surprised, because we’ve asked for discussions in the past and they haven’t occurred. I was very happy they extended it, which is why I got in contact with Frank right after I read it, because I didn’t want to lose the opportunity,” he said.

Reddish said he was eager to begin the discussions.

“I’m very pleased to see that they want to look at how these changes can affect all three communities in a positive manner,” he said. “We have to reach out and see what dates they’re available.”

Davis said: “If what we’re doing by introducing legislation is leading to a more productive conversation with other towns, then we have accomplished one of the goals we set out with. It doesn’t mean we’re going to change the course of what we’re doing, but if has opened communications, and we can find a better course or a different course, we’re going to be able to talk about it. Exactly what we wanted.”

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