August 22, 2013 | Vol. 39, No. 34

Borough Assembly considers public board and committee dissolution

As Petersburg continues to iron out its borough formation, the assembly will decide which committees and boards to dissolve or keep active.

Boards to be considered for removal are; Transient Room Tax, Public Safety, Utility Advisory, Motor Pool, Parks and Recreation and Public Library.

Those boards act as advisors to the borough and its corresponding departments.

Although, they’re all on the chopping block, Borough Manager Steve Giesbrecht said several will likely stay such as the Harbor Advisory Board and the Library Board.

During Tuesday’s assembly meeting, members discussed whether or not the committees and boards served the interest of the public and questioned their efficiency.

During a later interview, Giesbrecht said many board members remain in place for several years and if and when they do leave it’s sometimes difficult to find replacements.

“Good government involves a lot of input from its citizens,” Giesbrecht said. “If you have a board that is the same people all the time that echoes the same ideas all the time, is that in the best interest of the community?”

But Giesbrecht said he doesn’t discount the enthusiasm of many of the committee members either. Giesrbecht surveyed various boards and said “across the board” they wanted to remain.

Assembly member John Hoag toured many of the departments and discussed whether or not the department heads felt their corresponding committees or boards were important.

“Only one or two said yes when asked candidly,” Hoag said. “I reviewed, for instance, six months of minutes on the Public Safety Advisory Committee and it didn’t strike me as that committee was important.”

But Sally Dwyer is on the Public Safety Advisory Board and said she and her fellow members want to remain. Dwyer said the board is useful as it works out the bugs of an issue before it reaches the assembly level and the assembly might not be prepared for that loss.

“They’re going to get all this stuff on their plate,” Dwyer said. “It won’t be vetted and it won’t come to them in a package wrapped in a bow.”

Dwyer added that having boards and committees don’t cost public resources and doesn’t see the harm in letting them remain.

At the meeting, Assembly member John Havrilek said he sees boards as important as they enable public involvement. He made a motion to keep the committees but later voted against his motion after assembly member Hoag suggested the assembly review each board individually.

During subsequent meetings, the assembly will choose two boards or committees and vote on them two at a time.

A planning and zoning commission is required by state statute along with the school and hospital boards.

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