The Arroyo Grande City Council finalized plans to disband three volunteer advisory bodies with the goal of saving money and freeing up time for city staff.
The council voted 4-1 to dissolve the city's Traffic Commission, Parks and Recreation Commission, and Historical Resources Committee at an Aug. 28 regular meeting. Councilmember Caren Ray was the lone vote against the measure.
The three advisory bodies were composed of 15 resident volunteers. While they did not have decision-making power, the bodies could hear out residents on issues and make recommendations to the Planning Commission and the City Council. According to City Manager Jim Bergman, the duties of the three advisory bodies will be transferred to the Planning Commission, City Council, or the city staff, depending on the issue. According to Bergman, the move will allow the city to free up an estimated 30 hours of staff time.
"We're shifting the staff work from these commissions to higher priority issues that we already know we are having issues with," Bergman said.
The council's decision raised concerns from some residents, including sitting Planning Commissioner and City Council Candidate Terry Fowler-Payne. Payne said that disbanding the advisory bodies might hinder citizens looking to participate in their local government.
"I do have a real concern about taking that away from citizens in our community," she said.
Mayor Jim Hill said he'd considered the pros and cons of nixing the advisory bodies but ultimately decided in favor of the measure, noting that recently approved budget and staff cuts effectively charged city staff with doing more work with fewer people. Still, he urged residents to continue participating and communicating with the city and its decision-making bodies.
"I'm counting on residents to keep coming forward and bringing your concerns to the Planning Commission and the City Council," he said.
Councilmember Tim Brown noted that the council could always reinstate the commissions at a later date.
"If we don't make changes, we can't see change," he said. "We can always bring them back if it doesn't work."