Paonia re-structures town committees

By Tamie Meck


The Paonia Town Board of Trustees is considering a change in the structure of its standing committees. If approved, the six committees, Finance and Personnel, Public Works, Public Safety, Governmental Affairs, Services and Recreation, and Facilities and Development would be restructured into three committees: Finance and Personnel, Public Works/Utilities/Facilities, and Governmental Affairs/Public Safety. As with the current structure, two trustees would be assigned to each committee.

Town administrator Ken Knight presented the proposal, calling the current committee structure "fractured... several committees do not have enough to do and others have too much to do." Knight suggested a more formal committee structure. Currently, "The committees are not well balanced," and some don't regularly meet or even meet at all.

Knight listed several benefits, including a reduction in the time staff spends on committee meetings, since a staff member is required to be at all meetings. Committees would also have a set meeting time each month (twice monthly for the finance committee), trustees would be expected to attend meetings, and reports on each meeting would be prepared and presented to the board. "A realignment to three standing committees also would limit each trustee to just one committee each rather than two," reducing the number of meetings they are required to attend, wrote Knight in the proposal.

The recommendations "are based upon my first few weeks here," said Knight, who started the job in late January. "I think we could act a lot more efficiently."

A motion by Bill Brunner to have all meetings noticed and open to the public, including to other board members, failed, 5-1. "Everyone should have a chance to attend," including trustees, said Brunner. If something important is discussed, the public and the board can learn about it.

Knight pointed out that the presence of three or more trustees creates a quorum, requiring public notice of all meetings, the creation of an agenda for each meeting, and recording of minutes, all taking valuable staff time. As for allowing the public to attend in order to stay more informed, said Knight, committees act in an advisory capacity and don't make decisions. If a matter is important, it will come before the board at the appropriate time.

Knight said he has no problem posting notices and allowing the public to attend, but said he does have a problem with having to follow an agenda, which would restrict discussion to the agenda and not allow for the flow of information and ideas.

Suzanne Watson argued that the North Fork Airport, covered in the proposal under the public works, utilities and facilities committee, should go to the governmental affairs committee. It operates under an intergovernmental agreement between the town and Delta County and is maintained by the county, said Watson.

The board voted, 4-2, to deny a change to the current structure, which included keeping the airport under the public works, utilities and facilities committee, with trustees Chelsea Bookout and David Bradford voting aye. Trustee Karen Budinger then motioned to support the new structure, but with the caveat that the airport be moved from public works to the governmental affairs committee. That motion passed, 5-1.

Trustee Bill Bear cast the dissenting vote. "I think it's going to cause a lot of confusion, consternation and potential violations of open meetings," said Bear. He did agree that regular monthly meetings should be scheduled.

Assignment of trustees to the new committees will be on the March 28 agenda, and regularly scheduled meetings will begin in April, with notices posted at Town Hall.