Corinth looks at number of panels

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CORINTH — City officials will decide whether they should reduce the city’s number of boards and committees because a few of the committees are finding it difficult to hold a quorum, officials said recently.

The Corinth City Council publicly discussed concerns during a meeting last week after council member Mike Amason suggested that the city create a citizen audit committee that would allow residents to weigh in on the city budget process.

The council took no action on creating that committee, but the discussion spurred another conversation about the efficiency of other city committees and boards.

The parks and recreation commission, the trails committee and Keep Corinth Beautiful are each having difficulty either finding a reason to meet or simply not having enough members, officials say.

Interim City Manager Jim Berzina said the problem is that the boards have a very narrow focus, and the city’s staff is tasked with taking care of most of Corinth’s needs.

He added that it’s been about 10 or 11 months since the parks board last met.

The council hasn’t made any plans yet to consolidate the boards, but Berzina, who announced his retirement recently, said it’s a task he wants completed before he retires.

He expects to step down within the next five to eight weeks.

Berzina said that ultimately the decision will be left up to the City Council, but he said possibly combining the three boards would create a strong, successful committee.

The discussions about consolidating boards have made many council members wary about adding other boards or committees that could be deemed unnecessary.

Amason’s suggestion to form a citizen audit or budget committee was met with some opposition.

Amason said such a committee would open the budget process to residents and allow them to see how city funds are being spent and hold the city accountable for its spending.

Council member Joe Harrison said Corinth already provides residents with every document before it’s approved and that residents are always invited to council and workshop meetings.

But Amason said there’s a difference between being invited to a meeting and being selected to a committee.

Berzina opened up about his concerns about adding such a committee, calling it a bad idea.

He said the committee would add another layer of government to a process that’s already public.

“We receive awards every year for being open and transparent,” Berzina said. “Once you appoint people, they’ll feel like they have ownership. You’ll be creating something that will get out of hand.”

Council member Randy Gibbons said he sees the benefits and concerns from both sides but said he tends to lean toward the concerns of Berzina and Mayor Paul Ruggiere, who echoed the city manager’s comments.

Council member Lowell Johnson agreed with Amason and helped him research similar committees in neighboring communities.

“We have the ultimate authority on the budget,” Amason said. “A committee will take some of the edge off to coming to a council meeting.”

JOHN D. HARDEN can be reached at 940-566-6882 and via Twitter at @Jdharden.


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