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Village Vision News

Could Forsyth’s volunteer committees be eliminated?

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Would eliminating the majority of the Village’s seven volunteer advisory committees encourage greater public interest, attendance and participation at Forsyth Village Board meetings? Village Administrator Heather Kimmons believes the answer is “yes” and has turned to trustees as policy makers to decide the system’s fate for the seven committees in question: Activities & Events, Economic Development, Finance, Health & Safety, Public Works, Library and Parks & Recreation.

In an attempt to identify the value of the committee system, which had its beginnings prior to the arrival of Forsyth’s second Village administrator in 1995, Kimmons has been evaluating the effectiveness of using the committees in helping to resolve Village issues. In her observations, some of the committees have evolved into “special interest” groups where residents join or remain on a committee to push or support a pet project. As a result, she believes the Village website could provide a better forum for community discussion that would allow a broader range of viewpoints beyond that of special interests not common to most residents.

Kimmons shared her concerns with trustees on Feb. 7 in an open discussion, with trustee Bob Rasho declaring his support. “She is recommending a drastic change, and I am fully in support of what she is saying,” Rasho said. Trustee Marilyn Johnson agreed and noted that upon leaving the Village, former Village Administrator Jim Stevens recommended dissolving most of the committees. Trustee Jeff Allsup jumped in on the discussion as he labeled the committee system “...a level of bureaucracy.” He qualified his support for change and the need to “...wipe the slate clean” by saying that the formation of a few special event committees, as suggested by Kimmons, would be more advantageous for the Village as a whole.

Not all trustees were in agreement with the direction the discussion was taking. Trustee Steve Hubbard said committees provide "...a good way for the community to be involved." Mayor Hap Gilbert suggested having three or four committees, some of which could meet annually. Properly working committees, Gilbert said, streamline Board discussions and produce timely decisions. Trustee Larry Reed agreed with the mayor and said eliminating committees would lengthen Board meetings and shift responsibility to trustees who "...would have to spend more time ... instead of a 10-15 minute presentation, it will be one hour."

Kimmons agreed that ad hoc committees were viable options after hearing Rasho suggest seeking advice from experts in the community by engaging "... three or four people experienced and committed to the community." In general, however, Kimmons said professional staff should handle Village matters which pertain to finance, economic development, library, health/safety, public works and parks/recreation. She thought a few targeted volunteer committees could assist with annual Village events, such as the chili cookoff, Easter egg hunt and Forsyth Family Fest.

Trustees did not vote on the future of the committee system and tabled a further discussion/evaluation until a future meeting.

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