NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ – At the Saturday, March 3 "Annual Goal Setting Meeting," the Borough Council, Mayor Al Morgan and Borough Administrator Doug Marvin had a chance to discuss the committee representation issues that have rocked the harmony within the governing body since the beginning of this year.
Marvin suggested a by-law proposal regarding advisory committees and how they could be “better managed.” According to the proposal, each department head would be a part of an advisory committee as they know the borough protocol and how the purchasing process is carried out. Sometimes it is difficult to explain the proper procedures to volunteers, Marvin said. Having a borough employee on the committee would “eliminate a lot of problems.” Including department heads on the applicable committees would not incur additional cost as they do not eligible for overtime pay. Currently the borough administration relies on committee liaison reports. Morgan agreed that volunteers don’t always know “the ins and outs” of municipal protocol.
Marvin noted that the reasons for this proposal are to simplify committee structure and to make them more efficient and manageable. He also suggested that the same committee liaison in one advisory committee could also serve in all the related sub-committees.
I have “no problem” having a borough employee on the committees, Councilman Michael Gennaro said. He noted that a by-law change is not necessary to implement this practice. If the borough were to change its by-laws it would be the third time in a short period.
We have three options a) change the by-laws again; b) keep them as they are; or c) go back to the way they were before the recent change, Gennaro said. He suggested option c, going back to the old by-laws with “the commitment to work cooperatively.” This option suggests the return to a system of having one council member as a committee liaison, another as a co-liaison or an alternate, thus leaving the mayor with the option to attend as an ex-officio member.
“There has been a lot of dancing around this” issue, Councilman Robert Robinson said. “I don’t want three council members at committee meetings. We fixed something that is not broken,” he added. He also noted that the council doesn’t “need to go crazy with by-law changes.” If the mayor wants to go to a meeting, he may do so, Robinson said.
Councilman Gary Kapner also expressed his willingness to go back to the old system. He said that he also liked some of Marvin’s recommendations.
However, a few members of the council expressed some reservations regarding having the same liaison represent the council on the related sub-committees. Gennaro urged caution in changes to the make-up of some committees. Robinson also stated that he would prefer having the department heads at committee meetings when needed, not necessarily every time. Marvin suggested that any requests of having a borough employee in attendance should go through him.
Councilman Jim Madden noted that on some committees it has worked well having representation across departments.
Councilwoman Nadine Geoffroy applauded Marvin’s suggestion for an annual review of each committee.
The council agreed to put together a committee consisting of Council President Robert Munoz, Morgan, Madden and Marvin to further consider the committee representation and related by-laws. The council will officially discuss the issue at the March 26 meeting.
Madden also provided the council with an update of the new Communications Committee. The committee would like to direct people to look for information from one source, preferably the borough website, instead of a variety of social media sites. He noted that many residents rely on the borough calendar for event information.
Robinson noted that the borough should encourage residents to look for “a proper source of information.” The information should also be available in a timely manner.
The committee’s recommendations or proposed procedures and processes will be formally discussed at a future council meeting.