It’s likely that Human Services Department Director Michelle Piccerillo never thought that the proposed merger of two small, rather obscure committees would generate debate.
However, that’s exactly what has happened over the past two weeks, as some residents have pushed back on Piccerillo’s plan and offered some alternatives of their own.
The issue is this: Piccerillo has suggested combining the Youth Services and Human Services Committees into one entity. The reason, she states, is simple: not enough members are showing up to the respective committees’ monthly meetings, meaning quorums cannot be reached and business cannot be conducted.
The merger would result in the two seven-member committees being shrunk into one.
Some, however, are questioning the logic of the move. Perhaps the most vocal has been Jim Jinks, a member of the Youth Services Committee, who has opposed the possible merger by pointing out that the two entities deal with different topics important to different local constituencies, and that combining the two would limit effectiveness. To combat the absenteeism of committee members, Jinks has suggested that alternates be appointed, ready to step in when full members are unable to attend certain meetings.
We sympathize with Jinks and others who are uncomfortable with the idea of asking one single committee to do the job previously done by two. We also agree that, under ideal conditions, the needs of local youths would be addressed separately from those of adult residents.
However, times are not ideal.
It is no secret that, for years, civic organizations have struggled to attract new members. Some clubs have even ceased to exist.
That trend can also be seen in local politics, where the parties find it difficult at times to fill all the positions available in municipal government.
It’s clear that Piccerillo made her decision only after concluding that reinforcements are not likely on the way. After watching the committees struggle with membership, Piccerillo, the person closest to the situation, has determined that one, in this case, is better than two.
Would alternates work? Only if enough volunteers are found to fill all the available spots, and since that seems to be an issue already, we are skeptical that the manpower exists to handle two seven-member committees.
And while we agree that the needs of local youths are different than the needs of adult and senior residents, there would seem to be enough overlap as to make the merger more palatable. After all, without a quorum, no work can be done anyway.
Perhaps this debate will spark renewed interest in these two committees and there will be a rush of volunteers offering their services. Maybe all it required was a light being shone on the problem.
But recent trends cannot be ignored. New members will likely remain in short supply. The committees will continue to struggle.
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