Keeping the commission as isDespite Mayor Julia Welter's initial recommendation earlier this month, the Afton City Council decided last week to keep the city’s nine member planning commission intact.
By: Hank Long, Woodbury Bulletin
Despite Mayor Julia Welter's initial recommendation earlier this month, the Afton City Council decided last week to keep the city’s nine member planning commission intact.
But the council did vote to reduce the size of the historic preservation commission and to eliminate the city’s personnel and finance committees.
The council did not vote to eliminate the public works commission.
Welter originally made the list of proposed cuts and eliminations at the Jan. 9 special city council meeting. Her proposals were met with some reluctance and opposition by Afton City Council member Joe Richter, who said any elimination or reduction in the size of the committees and commissions would send a message that the city wants to decrease public participation from citizens.
Welter said the changes would allow the city to stay within its 2008 budget on a number of items including staffing and professional services, decrease the redundancy of some of the council’s decisions and increase the efficiency of the commissions.
The council tabled a vote on the proposals to the Wednesday, Jan. 15 meeting, in which Welter decided to withdraw her motion to reduce the size of the planning commission from nine to five members after several residents and members of the planning commission protested the proposal.
Afton Planning Commission Chair Jim Fox said the change would be too drastic.
“A nine member planning commission guarantees more involvement,” Fox said. “Issues discussed by five members may be just as contentious as discussed by nine members.”
Richter said the city would be sending the wrong message by making any cuts to public participation.
“We need the support of our citizens to help us stay on track,” Richter said. “We’re fortunate that we have citizens who are willing to participate.”
Despite Richter’s comments, the council did vote 3-1 to reduce the size of the historic preservation commission from seven to five members. Richter cast the dissenting vote and council member Peg Nolz was absent.
The council also voted 3-1 to eliminate the city’s finance and personnel committees, but Welter could not garner support for her proposal to eliminate the public works commission.
Committee in controversy
The elimination of the finance committee comes just months after the committee caused controversy over the frequency and timing of its meetings and how it made public notice of those meetings.
In October the Afton City Council voted to approve a new policy that requires council members to inform staff the week before a meeting was to occur. The new policy came after the finance committee posted a public notice of the meetings on its own at city hall.
The city’s finance committee was made up of two council members and at-large members of the community. The personnel committee was made up of two council members and the chair of the planning commission.