Proliferating council committees scatter governance in Villa Park
By Tina Richards
Villa Park’s number of governing/advisory committees is expanding by two, following a three-two city council vote, Jan. 23, to transform the single Community Development and Public Safety Committee into three separate entities.
The expansion is necessary, said Mayor Pro Tem Vince Rossini, to allow the city to deal with things important to residents. Rossini and Mayor Bob Collacott recommended the additional committees because, they reported, ”over the last three years, the responsibilities and activities of the Community Development and Public Safety Committee have increased.”
The proposed Public Safety, Public Works and Engineering and single-purpose Community Development committees were introduced at last month’s council meeting. The vote to accept or reject the additional committees was continued until this month to allow the city manager time to explore the costs of expanding the existing roster of seven.
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The committees are each comprised of one or two council members, resident volunteers, the city manager and the appropriate paid staffer, or contract employee. City Manager Steve Franks reported that the actual costs depended on whether the meetings are held after hours or during the business day. Hourly and contract personnel get paid more after business hours. He noted that, because he was salaried, his attendance has no cost impact, but reminded the council that, “there are only so many hours in a day, and I’m only one person.” He also pointed out that when he, a staff member or contractor was attending a meeting, there were other priorities not being attended to. “The proliferation of committee meetings is wearing us thin,” he said, asking the council to “temper that into your consideration.”
Rossini suggested that with “intelligent planning,” costs can be contained. He acknowledged that the start-up might require more frequent meetings and costs would be higher, but over time the number of meetings would slow down.
Diana Fascenelli questioned the need for additional committees, noting that last year some Community Development and Public Safety meetings took only 20 minutes, suggesting that it wasn’t as overworked as her colleagues suggested.
Robbie Pitts, whose concerns over costs during the December discussion spurred the continuance, remained skeptical that the need justified the costs (estimated at $2,280 per year). “For the city manager’s and staff’s sake,” he said, “it’s important to strike a balance. I’m concerned that a city this small has this many committees. It’s overkill.”
Committee advocates Rossini and Collacott had also suggested the new slate was necessary to “more equitably distribute policy development responsibilities among the council and facilitate broader council input in the policy development process.”
This year’s “equitable distribution” of council members to committees, as assigned by Mayor Collacott, is not as lopsided as last year, when majority members (Rossini, Bill Nelson, Collacott) dominated the weightier ones. Pitts is now chairman of the stand-alone Community Development Committee, and vice chair of Public Safety. Diana Fascenelli, however, remains unequitably assigned to just one, the School Advisory Committee, which hasn’t met in a year.
City representation on county-level boards that come with stipends remain the province of Nelson, Collacott and Rossini. Pitts, named to the county Library Advisory Board (no compensation) was apparently unimpressed with the equity of Collacott’s committee assignments. He was the lone “no” in the four-to- one vote that approved them. He and Fascenelli voted against the committee expansion.