The city of Arroyo Grande is in cost-cutting mode these days, and next up on the chopping block are three public-advisory committees.
The City Council this week voted to disband the Parks and Recreation Commission, Historical Advisory Committee and Traffic Commission, saying the current budget situation called for some creativity and restructuring.
The move is expected to save the city $30,000 annually — as it looks for savings to avoid a potential budget crisis — including roughly 30 hours per month of staff time preparing agendas and reports for the commissions and recruiting for vacant positions, City Manager Jim Bergman said.
“It’s definitely a paradigm shift,” Councilwoman Barbara Harmon said. “But I think it’s the new reality.”
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Tribune
Mayor Jim Hill added: “There’s benefits to the way we’ve always done it, but there’s costs there, and I think there are better ways to do it.”
There will be significant adjustments that have to be made with dissolving the committees, Bergman said, noting that they might not know how well it works for a while. The committees will disband 30 days after the ordinance’s final reading, expected to take place at a future meeting.
“Change is hard, but all organizations do this,” he said.
Here are the details on the committees being cut:
They each have five members, appointed by City Council. According to the city website, their members must be qualified electors of the city of Arroyo Grande, except members of the Historic Resources Committee, who can live outside of the city. Advisory body members are also designated officials in the City’s Conflict of Interest Code and have economic interest filing requirements pursuant to the Political Reform Act.
Advisory committee meetings are structured similar to Planning Commission or City Council meetings, with agendas and staff reports detailing policies and resident complaints.
Board members: Rodney Pappas, Kenneth Price, Timothy Storton, Mike McAustin and Susan Henslin
The Traffic Commission reviews policies related to traffic and parking, including red-curb requests. Like many of the city’s other committees, it was established in the 1970s as a place for community members to air concerns.
Last year, more than 76 percent of its meetings were canceled, either due to a lack of agenda items or inability to muster a quorum of members, Bergman said.
Services normally going through here would instead go to the Staff Advisory Council, Planning Commission and/or City Council.
Parks and Recreation Commission
Board members: Will Reichardt, Shawn Blethen, Fernando Garcia III, Jamie Maraviglia and Anna Heacock
Parks and Recreation is the oldest of the trio of committees being cut. It was formed in 1962 to advise the council and Directors of Recreation Services and Public Works. It’s also meant to work with other agencies and groups for park planning and management. Most recently, it has dealt with issues like parks projects, recreation programs and facilities, tree appeals and dog park complaints.
According to Bergman, roughly 57 percent of its meetings were canceled in 2017-18.
Services normally going through here will now be filtered through the city’s recreation and public works directors and the Staff Advisory Council, before progressing to the City Manager, Planning Commission or City Council if necessary.
Historical Resources Committee
Board members: Patricia Price, Ken Sage, Bill Hart, Shirley Gibson and Vincent Allan
The Historical Resources Committee is the newest of the cut committees: It was formed in 2005 as part of a push to encourage the preservation of local historical character. Along with that, the committee was given the power to provide historical designations.
Once disbanded, that power will instead be performed through Community Development department, with final oversight by the Planning Commission. Other duties would be transferred to the recreation and public works directors.
According to Bergman, the HRC canceled 62 percent of its meetings last year.
Several HRC members spoke at the meeting Tuesday night, expressing their concern over the decision.
“This is like getting dumped by your boyfriend when you’re not ready,” longtime resident and local historian Shirley Gibson said.
HRC Chairman Bill Hart noted the committee serves a unique purpose in the city.
“What does it say to our city members and the city at large, about our pride in being a historic city, if we get rid of this?” he said.
Local news matters: We rely on readers like you more than ever before, and we currently offer free access to five stories a month. Support us further with a digital subscription to help ensure we can provide strong local journalism for many years to come. #ReadLocal