Concerns raised over proposed Committee restructuring

While community volunteers play an integral role in many programs and projects, Saugeen Shores will be attempting to broaden its volunteer base by developing a pool of those willing to help based on their interests and skills. Therefore, committees, boards and special purpose boards are currently being reviewed by staff.

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According to Council’s Monday night agenda, up until now, three (3) types of committees have been used primarily; legislated, standing and ad hoc.

It is recommended that the legislated committees continue in their present form, and  citizens and elected officials continue to be appointed to them via the public recruitment
and appointment process currently in place.

In addition, due to the nature of the Heritage and Accessibility Committees, it is also recommended that these committees also be included in that process and that their  mandates be reaffirmed and efforts be focused on these mandates.

According to CAO, David Smith, feedback received is that¬†volunteers are stretched thin and, although are willing to help, want their contributions to be¬†focused to achieve the most impact. The recommended model achieves that. “Other¬†feedback received is that some potential volunteers are not in town all year and don‚Äôt¬†want to commit to committees where they will miss many meetings. Look at the Waterfront Master Plan for instance.¬† It is chock-full of hundreds of recommendations that are very diverse and but it has become stalled. The recommended¬†model or concept addresses that.”

Councilor Cheryl Grace however expressed some concerns. “I understand and appreciate the comments about specific target committees but I would ask that consideration be given to retaining the Waterfront Committee.¬† The waterfront is one of the most important parts of the community and is very complex with a number of issues.¬† The Waterfront Master Plan is being challenged by many things including climate change and an over-arching Waterfront Committee is having people with an institutional memory.¬† Individual citizens who can bring a number of skills and experiences with the waterfront.¬† We could then have sub-committees.¬† The waterfront is important to our culture and our economy and we have to protect our natural features and one way to do that is to have people on the committee who are interested and who also have that institutional memory.”

Councilor Kristen Snider also expressed surprise that the Waterfront Committee and Recreation and Active Transportation Committee would no longer exist although she thought the idea of having a pool of residents was a good one.

Under the new model, the Town would ask interested citizens to apply generally to become part of the pool with no expectations that they will be assigned to any item. Their application would simply be an expression of interest in participating and would include their experience and skills. They would also be asked to select broad areas of interest such as, Recreation, Technology, Economic Development, Transportation, Building Community, Environment, etc.

A data base would be developed and when opportunities come up, those best matching the opportunity would be directly contacted to confirm their availability and interest.  All tasks would also have a terms of reference developed and then would be circulated.  The idea is that most tasks will be very focused and short-lived [three (3) meetings for example]. A sample of a terms of reference is

Mayor Luke Charbonneau suggest that the model be given a chance.¬† “Much as changed and people was more return with faster results.¬† Council is the primary committee for the community and it’s good to bring new people into the mix.¬† In the past, it has always been the same people who volunteer.¬† I would like to give this a try for this new Council.”

Vice Deputy Mayor Mike Myatt however, wanted some assurances before he would support the concept.¬† I would like to be assured that Council will see the lists of all applicants before final decision are made and a task force is formed; I would like to be assured that task force ideas will come to Council; I would like to be assured that specialty teams are created through an application process; finally, I want to be assured that results of specialty teams be shared with residents prior to any final decisions being made on a project.”

CAO Smith pointed out that the model is meant to be nimble and fluid in order to get a lot of work done.¬† “If we have to keep coming back to Council, it will only slow things down.¬† We are trying to streamline things but reports will come to Council.”

Councilor Grace asked if ‘minutes’ would be recorded at task force meetings.¬† CAO Smith said that there would be no formal minutes but members would be asked to report back on specific tasks.¬† He added that updates would be provided to council of successful achievements.

Councilor Dave Myette also expressed his concern that there should be some way for Council to approve members of Committees.¬† “Committees are an extension of us (Council) to represent the opinions of the public.¬† Staff does not choose Council, the people do, and Staff should not be able to choose committee members.

Councilor Grace reiterated her concern over the demise of the Waterfront Committee.¬† “The waterfront is such a very important part of our whole community.¬† I would like to see a hybrid model to allow for sub-committees and not have waterfront decisions made by hand-picked people.¬† A citizen vision should be included as opposed to two or three people making decisions.”

In the end, Council voted to move forward toward a new committee policy.