November 2015
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Saturday, November 28, 2015

Limiting Berthoud Volunteer Membership?

There are some opinions blowing around Berthoud these days that claim the town needs a voted ordinance that would require a volunteer to have a primary residence within town limits for a year in order to serve on any advisory board or commission, period.

I’m worried about this for several reasons.

While some statutory requirements exist for commissions such as Planning and Zoning, there are none for other commissions. There’s a good reason for that: Each commission is very different, and serves various needs at different times. Their numbers are a reflection of this.

For example, UAB lists five members, as does Transportation. Could there be a need for more some day? Perhaps, but some boards are already having trouble getting enough volunteers, such as Transportation (still two openings), and Planning and Zoning (also two openings.)

Others, such as Economic Development which was formed in 2008 to respond to the need to help bring and retain retail and employment to town, have 14 voting members. That makes sense when those members all have great financial and personal investment in the town.

Some of them may not live within the structured town line limits, but more than half live in 80513, have for years, and all of them are staking their entire life savings, serious investment, and businesses on the success of our town.

I took a look at Loveland’s guidelines for volunteer boards, and theirs states that board members need to be residents or have “substantial ties” in terms of property, business, or financial stakes in the town. That’s what we have going on right now, and it makes sense

If a town ordinance or law that says volunteers must themselves be residents in town for a year, then someone who rents an apartment or house in town for one year would have more right to be on an advisory board than someone who has lived just on the outskirts of town for 30 years and owns a business in town that pays lots of taxes and helps the local economy. What happens after that “resident” moves out?

This just doesn’t make sense to me.

Neither does the fact that, despite my fact checking, I cannot find any evidence whatsoever of anything bad happening by having folks who own businesses in town, but who happen to reside out of town, be on an advisory board. I see evidence of much more good contribution, more than I can enumerate here. Fearful imagination is one thing, reality and facts another.

Then there’s the case of Ian Tinney, long-time Historic Commission member and tireless volunteer. His position expired because he was absent for a serious illness. He’s better now, but due to financial struggles related to his illness must live outside the town borders. If we impose lock-tight rules on him, he can’t come back to volunteer. See how this doesn’t make sense or help anyone?

I question folks who spend time criticizing other folks who volunteer. What’s that about? How about volunteering for the existing openings, rather than complaining about the composition of another? Isn’t a full board of willing volunteers a good thing for any town in a struggling economy? I’m grateful to those people.

If this issue ends up on a ballot, of which there’s talk, it’s going to cost the town, and all of us residents, a pretty penny. Due to election law changes, the town would be required to send an absentee ballot to everyone participating in the county’s permanent mail-in voter program, thus increasing election costs to between $7,000-8,000. That’s expensive whining.

Now really, how would this benefit our empty coffers and all of its citizens?

by Lisa Aston Bauer

Editors note: Ms. Bauer’s husband is a Trustee with the Town of Berthoud

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