2011-06-02 / News

Assistant clerk discusses openings on town’s committees and commissions

By Tracey O’Neill

The May 25 meeting of the Jamestown Shores Association was highlighted by a visit from Heather Lopes, an assistant clerk at Town Hall. Lopes was invited to speak to members regarding the 27 active town commissions and committees. Town Council member Bob Bowen was in attendance and provided advisory support when needed.

Several committees and commissions were reviewed, with a concentration on those that have current openings.

“This is a diverse community,” Lopes said. “A lot of what happens in town is a result of volunteers. They bring many different ideas and experiences to the table. Their contributions make Jamestown a vibrant and enjoyable place to live.”

The 27 current committees and commissions carry term commitments, with the majority at threeyear terms. The committees are limited to seven members by the Town Charter. Although most committees are permanent in nature, some are created and designed to deal with a particular issue and disbanded at the conclusion of the same.

In hammering home the volunteer message, Lopes cautioned, “Our boards and commissions are advisory to the Town Council. The majority of service opportunities do not come with a stipend.”

There are seven committees and boards with current openings and a wide array of concentrations. “It is difficult to get people to commit the time [to] volunteer to serve,” Lopes said. “Generally, people who apply have a particular interest and then get involved. It is important to reach out to the community. Openings on commissions are advertised and the cost of advertising is high.”

On the environmental side, there are three committees with available openings. Those who are interested in serving may find a niche volunteering for the Tree Preservation and Protection Committee, Water Resource Protection Committee or Coastal Resource Management Committee. The tree and water committee each carry a three-year term, while service on the coastal committee is a two-year term.

The town’s Affordable Housing Committee, which also carries a three-year appointment, has three available openings. The committee is reviewing housing issues in accordance with the state mandated affordable housing initiative, and works towards review and development of Housing Trust Fund Projects. The committee is further concerned with development of an Affordable Housing Plan consistent with the Jamestown Comprehensive Community Plan.

The town’s Buildings and Facilities Committee, Tax Assessment Board of Review and Zoning Board of Review each have an alternate position available. Alternate positions may be a consideration for those individuals who are interested in serving and exploring the opportunity for a full-term appointment.

“It is important to note that there is a time commitment, but the committees generally only meet once a month,” Lopes said. “There is certainly research involved. Background knowledge is helpful, but committee service does not require a lot of time.”

The application process which takes place is uncomplicated. Applications can be obtained in the town clerk’s office, at the library or online. The applicant is asked to provide basic background information and explain in writing their reasons for requesting committee appointment.

Once a completed application is submitted, a brief and informal interview is scheduled with the Town Council. Upon approval and recommendation from the council, the appointment is placed on the next agenda, the committee member is sworn in at Town Hall and service begins.

A question-and-answer session was held at the end of Lopes’ presentation with several association members posing questions concerning specific boards and commissions. Bowen, in responding to directed questions, explained, “The committees are set up in an advisory capacity. Although committees operate in a volunteer capacity, [they] do have specific duties to execute.”

Bowen also answered questions as to qualifications required by the Town Council for service and any limitations to service on multiple commissions. “The question of limiting service on committees is being addressed at the Town Council level. There should be a limit at the committee level as to how many committee appointments an individual can hold. Peter Ruggiero is looking into that issue.”

Although the application process for each committee or commission is the same and specific proprietary knowledge requirements are not delineated, the Town Council does ask questions regarding an individual’s background.

“There are certain commissions that have requirements,” Bowen said. “For example, the Harbor Ordinance lays out the guidelines for who is to serve on the Harbor Commission.”

Lopes thanked the association for inviting her to speak at the meeting. “Serving is about what’s important to you. And what you want to help the town accomplish.”

Following the guest speaker, association President Nancy Kolman Ventrone opened the agenda, encouraging members to attend the Financial Town Meeting on Monday, June 6.

“This is a budget meeting and it is important to all of us,” she said. “The council will be discussing the budget for the next fiscal year.”

The beach committee reported on clean-up efforts at Mackerel Cove in anticipation of the Memorial Day weekend. “We talked to Bill Piva and requested that the beach be raked,” she said. “A letter will be sent requesting that some of the tall grasses be cut back as they are encroaching upon lawn and access areas.”

Discussion of the Fort Getty charette quickly turned the tables to budget concerns. Of particular concern to Mary Jo Diem was the increase in the hydrant rate. “They are taxing everyone,” she said. “It is unethical in that no one subsidizes my septic, my well and water expenses. It is not fair that the water bill should be spread out throughout all residents.”

In answering Diem’s concerns, Bowen explained, “There was a consultant hired and the consultant recommended a $200,000 increase. [We] have only increased by $100,000 which is half of what the consultant recommended.”

The next scheduled meeting of the Jamestown Shores Association will be held on Wednesday, June 22.

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