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Form of government changes in Bonne Terre

BONNE TERRE — The form of government will change in Bonne Terre from a city manager/council to representation by aldermen.

Voters on Tuesday were asked, “Shall the City Manager form of government for the City of Bonne Terre continue?” A total of 206 voters (46 percent) voted yes but 241 (54 percent) voted no.

Bob Marler, who started the petition to change the form of government, was thrilled with the results while City Manager Larry Barton was not.

“I’m tickled pink right now,” Marler said. “I’m really thankful for all the people who got out and helped me with this … especially my granddaughter. I couldn’t have done this by myself.”

Marler said he’s fought several things in the town and won, including tax issues and a fire district proposal.

He is thankful to the voters. He said this next year should be interesting.

Marler has said he believes an alderman form would allow people to be treated more fairly and their voices heard better. Marler said the city does have a city manager in place right now who is really trying.

“He got in after the fact and that’s tough luck,” he said.

Over the past few months, Barton has said he sees returning to the alderman form as taking a step backward. Barton, who took over as city manager in November, said the people supporting the change believe they would have a better voice, but he disagrees. He believes they would have less say in how the government is being operated.

On Tuesday night, Barton said, “I guess that’s what the people want. I was against it from the very beginning.”

He believes there are people who are definitely disappointed by the outcome. He feels a lot of people have been misled.

He said he will stay in his position for rest of the year, working as normal, but “after that who knows.”

Under the city manager form of government, five council members are elected at-large. After each election, the council appoints one of the members to serve as mayor.

The mayor in the city-manager form gets to vote on issues the same as other council members. In the alderman/ward format, the mayor is the only official elected at large, but doesn’t vote unless there is a tie.

There are no wards in the city manager form, so each councilman is answerable to every voter in the city. In the ward format, representatives are responsible only to voters in their particular ward.

City officials have said there is no way of knowing how much it would cost to change the form of government. According to city officials, if a change were requested by the majority of voters, candidates would file in December. The election would be held in April 2008 to elect a completely new group to serve as aldermen.

The number of wards and how the city will be divided has not been determined.

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