OCEAN CITY – At the conclusion of the Mayor and City Council’s strategic planning workshop last Friday, the decision to re-establish town committees was brought forward to dig deeper into details.
Councilman Joe Mitrecic brought up the idea last month to re-enact the committee structure the town had in place prior to the organizational meeting following 2010’s municipal election when the previous council voted to dissolve the groups. The reasoning was to have all city business brought before the Mayor and Council at one place and at one time.
Last week the majority of the council believed Ocean City’s business was conducted in a more productive manner under the committee system and voted to re-establish them as they were previously. Council members Brent Ashley and Margaret Pillas voted against the motion.
Lyle Sumek, president of Lyle Sumek Associates, Inc., led the work shop this week and explained to city officials that committees throughout the country have different responsibilities, for example providing policy guidance or administrative oversight, among others.
Sumek used the ongoing issue of the vacant shopping mall, Ocean Plaza on 94th Street, as an example of a topic that a committee could be tasked with handling.
“You meet with the owners, you get some ideas about strategy and try to get idea of where you want to go with it … at some point, it needs to come to the council and get shaped,” he said. “Looking at your policy agenda it doesn’t look like there is a lack of key topics to be dealt with over the next year.”
The council was in consensus that committees should be tasked with not only providing policy recommendations but also recommending actions on key issues, as was done in the past. For example, to discuss and research issues so that when staff takes over they already know what problems need to be addressed.
City Manager David Recor added committees could also be responsible with presenting progress reports on how that recommendation was conceived, and under the Mayor and City Council’s public meeting agenda a section would be added, titled Reports by Committees and Commissions, that would be the scheduled time where the discussion and progress of a committee would be presented not only to the full council but also the public.
Mitrecic said the only change he would ask for from the way the committee system was conducted in the past was when a recommendation was brought forward for the first time through a report and at times it would be quickly followed by a council member making a motion to approve. He suggested instead when a recommendation comes forward it is scheduled for a work session to be thoroughly discussed.
Pillas acknowledged that it seemed the committees would function just as they have in the past but agreed with Mitrecic that when it comes to the council voting on a committee recommendation a full discussion should take place first.
“The biggest difference is now we have a council that actually reads the minutes and the agendas, and when people read the minutes and the agenda quorum than they have a better idea of what has transpired and a better ability to make a decision,” Mayor Rick Meehan said. “This is a challenge for the council to do it better than it was done previously.”
The council decided the purpose of the committees is to make policy recommendations and make progress reports on items from committees to the council or liaison reports to the council. It was also agreed agenda items would be put in place by the council or by the committee chair in working with the related department head and city manager.