The Loxahatchee Groves Town Council last week discussed appointments to advisory committees, noting that nominations are due by Tuesday, April 2.
The reminder had been on the consent agenda for the March 19 meeting, but Vice Mayor Pro-Temp Robert Shorr pulled the item for discussion.
“We can’t not talk about committees,” Shorr said. “Every committee seat ends at the election, so we need to be reappointing. If you want to stay on the committee, if you’re not on a committee and want to get on a committee, please talk to a council person.”
Shorr said he wanted to see full membership on all the committees.
“I think these committees are very important, and I think this year, more than ever, these committees are going to be active,” Shorr said. “There has been a little bit less activity for whatever reason in the past couple of years, but we really need the citizens involved and serving on these committees.”
Shorr noted that at the last meeting, there had been a motion approved to get all committee members who have served over the past year a certificate of appreciation. “I want to make sure that happens, that we get certificates to everybody who has served,” he said.
Shorr pointed out that having alternates to all the committees had been approved earlier by the council in order to make sure that meetings have quorums. “There’s six positions on each of the four committees, so we need 24 people out there volunteering,” he said.
Council members asked if they could solicit volunteers through social media, and Town Attorney Michael Cirullo said that was OK, as long as responses were routed through the town, either by the council member or the respondent.
“Also, just so you know, anybody can just come into town hall and put in an application, and you all can go through anything that comes through town hall,” Cirullo said.
During public comment, Paul Coleman said he would like to volunteer, but it was hard to take time off from work.
“I was asked to be on a committee before, and the biggest drawback to being on the committee for me, like a lot of the other folks out in the audience, is I work Monday through Friday, so when the meeting is at 9 a.m. on a Tuesday or a Wednesday, in order to participate or be a part of the committee, I would have to take three hours at a minimum of vacation time, and that’s if the meeting lasted only an hour,” Coleman said. “Some of these committee meetings go pretty long.”
Coleman suggested asking sitting volunteers when they are holding their meetings.
Councilwoman Phillis Maniglia said part of the challenge in the past had been arranging meetings when necessary staff were present.
“With prior management, that was part of the problem,” Maniglia said. “They didn’t want to be here at night.”
Maniglia noted that some evenings, the building is rented for other purposes. She asked if a schedule could be worked out for the committees to meet at night.
Town Manager Jamie Titcomb said he felt new meeting schedules could be worked out and recommended following the regular committee member selection process.
“Perhaps you could empower the committee members to consider and adopt when they want to meet, and we could work around those logistics,” he said. “But it does have to be staffed, and it is a public meeting. We have to have the recording elements of that. I think we can work it out so it works for everybody.”
Mayor Pro Temp Dave DeMarois said that in the past, the council had been able to appoint most committee members at the beginning of April. “We’d like to encourage people to go ahead and come forward,” DeMarois said.
Nina Corning, vice chair of the Roadways, Equestrian, Trails & Greenway Advisory Committee, said she felt there was no problem with committees meeting in the conference room when other entities are in the council chambers.
“Having been on a committee since 2011, we used to meet in the evening, and sometimes meet twice a month,” Corning said. “The fact that you are willing to do that, I’m very grateful. I think that it will make a difference not only for the committee members, but also the people who are showing up and want to participate.”
Former Councilman Jim Rockett, who once chaired the Finance Advisory & Audit Committee, said that committee had set alternate dates to meet in the event that one date turned out to be undoable or lacked a quorum.
“One of the things we instituted that seemed to work was we set a pack of dates, because one of the toughest things to do, even tougher than holding a meeting and getting everybody to come, was if you had a cancellation of the meeting because of lack of a quorum,” Rockett said. “To reschedule that meeting took another whole month, so if you didn’t have it included in the committee’s responsibility, then it didn’t happen.”