STOW – The COVID-19 pandemic has made it difficult for the charter review commission to meet, but City Council is giving them until Aug. 1 to decide whether to change the deadline.

Law Director Jaime Syx said at the April 23 council meeting if the charter review commission doesn’t meet the Aug. 1 deadline for submitting its recommended charter changes, council could appoint a special charter commission, which would have no deadline and could continue working into 2021.

Mayor John Pribonic said every five years the city has a charter review commission and had appointed members shortly before Gov. Mike DeWine closed down public buildings. Charter Review Commission members include John Baranek, Deb Matz, John Moyer, Alan Narvy, Charles Obendorf, Jennifer Synder and Wendy Supple.

"It’s a time for residents to voice their opinion on what they’d like changed," Pribonic said. "It’s one of the most important commissions we have. We want to make sure it’s done right and carry us to the next five years."

The commission reviews the charter line by line and makes sure it doesn’t conflict with any laws, he said.

"This group responds to our residents’ needs as a whole," Pribonic said. "They have not had an opportunity to meet, and I feel it would be an injustice if we rushed this process."

The charter review commission would have to present the charter amendments to council before they go on the ballot in November, Pribonic said. The commission members said they didn’t have a problem with waiting but said they could not do the job properly under these circumstances.

Council President Sindi Harrison (Ward 2) said the commission could meet in June and July yet.

"I wouldn’t want to decide until we know if things will open up," Harrison said.

Syx said she recommended the commission try to meet and make a determination if they can adequately review the charter and let the city and council know.

"We want council to get any recommendations in time for the November deadline," Syx said.

When asked if there was a need for a charter review, Syx said there was a need, noting there were inconsistencies in the charter and contradictions on subjects in different places in the charter.

Harrison said council could wait until Gov. Mike DeWine made a decision about opening public buildings.

"I think it’s too early for [appointing] a special commission," said Harrison. "We can revisit it."

There would have to be legislation to create a special commission and have a deadline, Harrison said.

"It makes me uncomfortable the special commission has no deadline in the charter," said Council member Jeremy McIntire (At Large). "I agree the commission should try to meet. There’s a platform and mechanism created they can use here."

It’s important the commission have public input, Pribonic said.

"I don’t want it rushed and have people think they didn’t have time to speak about their concerns," Pribonic said.

Harrison emphasized she wasn’t opposed to a special commission.

"It’s just too early [to decide]," Harrison said. "Wait for a couple of weeks to see if it’s feasible in June and July to reach the deadline."

Gannett Reporter Laura Freeman can be reached at lfreeman@recordpub.com