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UPDATE: Citizen Questions Village Committee Members Over Possible Term Limits

Fran Martin said the two-person Legislative and Licensing Committee was trying to centralize control and reduce citizen input by reducing the number of citizens and increasing the number of Village Board members that serve on Village committees and commis

UPDATE: The Legislative and Licensing Committee will meet at 4 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 29 at the East Side Community Center, 6156 Douglas Ave., to discuss this issue.

Original story: A citizen active with the Caledonia Conservancy took issue with members of the Legislative and Licensing Committee over possibly changing the length of term and term limits for Village committees and commissions.

In a heated discussion at the meeting Tuesday, Sept. 20, Fran Martin said the two-person Committee was trying to centralize control and reduce citizen input by reducing the number of citizens and increasing the number of Village Board members that serve on Village committees and commissions.

The Legislative and Licensing Committee is talking about downsizing the Storm Sewer Utility District Commission from seven to three members. Kevin Wanggaard, Village Board member and Committee member, said the changes are being considered to “make it more efficient,” according to the meeting minutes from the Commissions. The Committee is looking at having the Commission consist of a Board member, two citizen commissioners, and alternates.

They also discussed the possibility of merging the Lake Michigan Storm Sewer Utility District and Root River Storm Sewer Utility District, changing the length of terms and term limits for appointments on all commissions and committees, having an application for people to apply for committees and having an anti-nepotism policy, which may need to include people who have financial interests (business partners) with each other.

No formal recommendations have been made. However, Martin took issue with the potential changes.

“I noticed that the Legislative and Licensing committee, when I looked at the website, it’s just two people – Mr. Weatherston and Mr. Wanggaard,” Martin said. “We have two people apparently dictating that we revamp all of the long-standing commissions and committees in an effort to centralize control, and we are incurring attorney’s fees in an effort to do that.”

Ron Coutts, the Village President, told Martin the Village Board could attend the meetings at any time and any recommendations coming out of the Committee (or any committee) would need to be approved by the Village Board.

“But aren’t we incurring attorney’s fees?” Martin asked.

“It’s up to the Committee on whether they want the want the attorney’s there to review it,” Coutts said.

The Village is “in a terrible budget crisis,” Martin said. “And it appears that trustee Wangaard, and maybe trustee Weatherston, have decided on their own that this needs to be done. Wouldn’t it be more prudent to come to the Village Board first before you incur any attorney fees?”

Wanggaard pointed out that the Village Board sent the issue of revamping and possible disillusion of the Storm Sewer Utility to the Committee.

“The attorney was there because we are dealing with a charter ordinance,” Wanggaard said. “Every ordinance we are dealing with is a charter ordinance. And also, the only one that we wouldn’t be adding a board member to is the Planning Commission. And we are not done. We are still in the committee.”

Wanggaard added that the Commitee is looking at adding a second board member to the Plan Commission and putting one Board member on the other commissions.

The question over the make-up of the Planning Commission is a sensitive issue since the , a plan commission member who has been critical of developments in the Village.

“I’m looking at the fact that you are recommending term limits for all of our committees, not just the ones you’ve mentioned,” Martin said. “So it looks to me that you are looking at revamping the term limits for all of the committees, not just the planning commission.”

Martin took issue with revamping the length of the terms members on the commissions and Communities serve on, but Wanggaard said the terms vary from two to six years.

“We want to be on an even keel where everything is equal across the board,” Wanggaard said.

“But you are removing citizens,” Martin said.

“It hasn’t come out of committee yet, we’re still in committee,” Wanggaard said. “When it comes to the Village Board, you’ll see what the final product is.”

The Legislative and Licensing Committee is expected to take up the issue again in October.

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