South Bethany council delves into rules on committees

South Bethany’s committees have been the topic of minor debate recently, so the town council decided to take an official look at their policy on June 25, by creating one.

Council Members Sue Callaway, Tim Saxton and Wayne Schrader were appointed to develop an official policy on South Bethany committees. That may include membership numbers, leadership requirements, a definition of a quorum and more.

In May, the council voted to request that Delaware General Assembly amend the South Bethany Charter to permit chairs of committees to be individuals who are not council members. This would follow current practice. Although most residents vocally favored this change, the vote was not unanimous.

This month, as the council approved committee assignments, they wanted clarification on the difference between a regular voting member and a general volunteer for committee projects.

For now, the council voted, 6-1, to change references on the website, and later address the policy, of having at least one council member on the Budget & Finance Committee for the 2016 fiscal year. Previously, two council members were required to be among their number.

The change is “based on what we have readily available to us,” said Mayor Pat Voveris. The committee already includes one council member and two CPAs. No other council member expressed an interest in the budget committee, and Voveris said she felt their talents were better suited elsewhere.

Callaway opposed the measure. She said she was concerned about continuity.

“Budget & Finance is the one committee that touches all operations … and I just feel there’s a disconnect with not another person there. That person is not going to be the chair” but will learn the process and maybe become future chair, she suggested.

“People who are not financially-oriented get bored and start skipping meetings and not showing up. The reality is we spend the majority of our time all around these numbers, analyzing them,” Saxton said.

Callaway disagreed with presenting such an important committee as being “boring.”

Voveris noted that the change is just for one year.

Committee chairpersons and members were appointed: Charter & Code Committee, John Fields and three members, including one nonvoting; Sea Level Rise & Storm Surge (SLRSS) Committee, George Junkin and six members; Canal Water Quality Committee, Junkin and nine members; Community Enhancement Committee, Callaway and 10 members; Budget & Finance, Saxton and five members; and Communications & Public Relations Committee, Kathy Jankowski and 28 members.

Carol Stevenson is the town council liaison for the Planning Commission, and Martha Fields was reappointed to the Board of Adjustment.

Resident Ed Bintz requested in person to join the SLRSS Committee, bringing knowledge, in particular, of SLR and FEMA-related issues.

When he was rejected for membership, Bintz said he felt that committees were built on the whims of the chairpersons.

Junkin responded that he was uncomfortable with having Bintz on the committee because he felt targeted by Bintz’s hinting at litigation to get some action on the FEMA issue.

Voveris said she appoints the board based on the recommendation of the committee chair, who will build a team he or she can work with. Volunteers have been refused before. Saxton agreed that he creates a budget committee similarly.

Other council members noted that committee meetings are open to the public and allow time for public comment.

Bintz also said there doesn’t seem to be a public call for volunteers or official policy for accepting or rejecting them. Voveris noted that Town Hall has sent multiple emails to residents, seeking volunteers.

Council approves new budget guidelines

Also this week, the council approved new budgetary guidelines, which would give the town manager and finance director more freedom to move money between budget lines, without council approval. The maximum amount would be $10,000, instead of the current $2,500.

Constant budget amendments “don’t really accomplish a lot,” said Saxton. So, a formal budget review will be mandated every six months. More are permitted, if necessary, during the fiscal year.

The Budget & Finance Committee is also developing a Capital Reserve Policy in conjunction with the Town’s Depreciation Schedule. Reserves were officially created in a recent budget cycle, but Saxton recommended putting a specific number on how many months of costs should be set aside.

The existing depreciation schedule has already served South Bethany well, Saxton said. “It works. We haven’t bought any police cars out of the operating budget.”

The Town Hall building is not in the depreciation schedule because the numbers are so staggering, but it has a 50-year lifespan, so is less necessary, the council noted.

Anyone wishing to use Town Hall for a private event can follow the newly approved Town Hall Use Policy and application, approved by council.

Monthly council workshop meetings have been moved from Thursdays at 5 p.m. to 2 p.m. because town staff must attend. The schedule change should reduce their nighttime work hours. Plus, the council members were able to do it, Voveris said.

The next regular town council meeting is Friday, July 10, at 7 p.m.