CORC establishes new procedures

Bethany Beach’s Charter and Ordinance Review Committee (CORC) has a new way of doing business, and that’s thanks — at least in part — to the committee’s recent efforts to develop a mission statement.

Working from the newly established three-part model for committee mission statements in the town, members of the committee last week developed not just a statement of its scope of work, but a six-stage process for that work when it involves new legislation or significant changes to existing legislation.

The process was geared toward preventing “surprises” for town council members and minimizing unnecessary work for the committee and the town’s administrative staff. In using the new process, committee members are hoping to obtain the council’s informed approval before performing significant work on developing legislation.

Previously, CORC’s work has resulted from both council requests and issues raised from the community at large, though its primary mandate was to explore issues at the direction of the town council. Its standing goal has been the review and revision of the town’s existing codes and ordinances.

Committee members made it clear in developing the new process Jan. 21 that they felt the creativity and brainstorming abilities of the group should be retained. Member Don Doyle said, “There is a creativeness to CORC that I hope is never lost. We ought to have the ability in this venue to bring up ideas that would never otherwise be discussed.”

Mayor Jack Walsh, in attendance at the meeting, also supported the committee’s ability to discuss issues without specific council direction. “Brainstorming sessions are good,” he told the committee members.

The sticking point with allowing CORC that level of freedom — the possibility that significant work might be done on legislation the council would dismiss when it was initially presented — was dealt with in subsequent steps of the new process.

Vice Mayor Carol Olmstead pointed CORC members to the draft mission statement, which charged the committee to recommend issues to the council “prior to development of legislation.”

While CORC members will be allowed to discuss any issues they believe need to be addressed, a single committee member will be assigned to develop an informational “white paper” when the committee deems further consideration necessary. That paper will be presented to committee members for discussion at their next meeting.

If the committee members then agree that the issue needs to be addressed with legislation, it will be forwarded to the town council — with the related white paper — as part of the committee’s regular report. The council could then consider the issue at is next regular meeting and give CORC the go-ahead to develop legislation or direct it to drop the issue altogether.

Issues that the town council members agree should be addressed would then have legislation developed by CORC for a first reading before the town council, following normal procedures for council action from there.

CORC would still perform immediate action on issues at the direct request of the town council, as well as any issues deemed to need quick action.

One source of concern with the new process was that it will likely lengthen the period of time it takes for an issue to go from first discussion to potentially being passed by council at its second reading.

However, committee members were generally in agreement that most issues addressed by CORC were ongoing matters without great urgency, and the importance of providing council members plenty of time to absorb information on issues before directing action was deemed paramount. They agreed to add the new procedures to the CORC information available to members and town residents.

The use of town resources by CORC was also addressed at the Jan. 21 meeting.

Walsh, echoing concerns that had been expressed to him by Town Manager Cliff Graviet, said he wanted to make sure the committee wouldn’t make unnecessary demands on resources such as Town Attorney Terrence Jaywork, Building Inspector John Eckrich or Town Clerk Lisa Kail.

The CORC members were in complete agreement that the committee would not call on Jaywork, who bills the town at an hourly rate, unless directed to do so by council. The committee had never done so previously, they said. But Doyle was concerned the town would prohibit the committee from making use of Eckrich and Kail. “The town ought to be augmenting the efforts of the committees,” he said.

Graviet was called upon to clarify for members what degree of use they had of Eckrich and Kail, as well as other town staff. He said the concern with such resources was primarily a matter of scheduling. The request from then-Mayor Joseph McHugh to shift committee meetings to a week other than that of the town council meeting had been an effort in that direction, he said.
With the duties that both are already called upon to perform on a daily basis, Graviet said, work at town hall often came to a standstill when a heavy week of committee meetings put immediate demands on them that interfered with their normal workloads.

Though most committees (including CORC) had decided not to change their meeting times, committee members said they were mindful of the demands on town staff and would make every effort to minimize them.

In further work to develop their mission statement, committee members rejected the idea of two-year terms for members with a 5-2 vote establishing a one-year term. Those favoring the shorter term argued that the committee chairperson should be able to appoint whichever committee members he or she felt would best serve the community and not be required to keep existing members appointed by a predecessor.

The membership numbers were set between a minimum of five members and a maximum of nine. Noting the expected revisions to other committees’ mission statement based on the new framework developed by Council Member Bob Degen, committee members opted to hold their draft statement until the council’s February meeting, with the approval of Walsh.

They then moved on to the ongoing work of revising town code, starting with areas related to swimming pools. The question was immediately raised as to the definition of a swimming pool under existing codes, specifically to tackle the presence of larger “soft-sided” pools that have become popular in recent years.

Eckrich volunteered to provide committee members with the related section of swimming pool definitions from another section of town code, to facilitate the discussion of the issue. The codes would be provided prior to the committee’s next meeting, he said. Further discussion was tabled until then.

One significant element of the committee’s revisions to the town’s ordinances had been the removal of specific fees from the ordinances themselves to the schedule of fees, where they could be more easily kept up-to-date.

The new schedule of fees is under the purview of the town’s Budget and Finance Committee. That committee is set to meet in coming weeks to formulate the budget for the 2006 fiscal year, which begins in April. Town Secretary-Treasurer Tony McClenny said the updating of the schedule of fees would be part of the committee’s next meeting.

Committee and Town Council Member Lew Killmer said he believed the town should be aiming to neither make money nor lose money on its fees. Doyle said he believed that, in most cases, the town’s fees were much too low.

Based on previous discussion, committee members requested member Jerry Dorfman develop the prescribed white paper for possible action concerning trash receptacles in the town. Committee members noted that the discussion of the issue had resulted from complaints by town employees.

Committee members agreed to hold a meeting in February, despite the expected absence of Fuller. They also requested Fuller consider appointing a vice-chairperson to run their meetings in the case of his absence. Fuller announced at the town council meeting later that day that he had selected McClenny to serve as his vice-chairman for CORC.