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Article updated: 6/11/2013 11:06 PM

Batavia council working out kinks in new committee plan

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Batavia aldermen decided Tuesday that every alderman will get to vote on every matter when the joint committees of the whole meet.

That cleared up one piece of confusion over the new way the city council and mayor are doing business these days. At least, until the council decides in 2014 whether to keep experimenting with the plan, suggested by the mayor, or go back.

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"I'm not sold on the joint committee yet, and the new alderman haven't had the experience of the separate committees, which I think are more intimate and things are more discussed," Alderman Michael O'Brien said.

Even the secretary recording votes had questions Tuesday, as the community development committee voted on two matters before the matter of who gets to vote on what was settled.

It's all related to the fact that the Batavia council has six new aldermen. The council lost 73 years' worth of experience with the April losses of veterans Eldon Frydendall, Jim Volk and Robert Liva, and the voluntary departures of Vic Dietz, Dawn Tenuta and Janet Jungels.

Mayor Jeff Schielke suggested the joint committees of the whole plan in May. In the past, the four committees met separately, one or two times a month.

He said it would be a good way for freshmen aldermen to learn about all facets of city business. He based it in part on what St. Charles and Geneva do, where the councils meet twice a month as a committee of the whole to discuss matters in depth. But he also wanted to keep individual committees (government services, city services, public utilities and community development) so that there would be chairmen acting as point people on the topics.

The council agreed, informally, to try his way. But aldermen were immediately confused: Was it a true committee of the whole? Would everybody who attended the joint committees of the whole meeting get to vote on every matter, or would only members of the four committees get to vote on the matters specific to them?

Tuesday, they got an opinion from the city's law firm: Either way seems to be OK, and it was up to them to decide.

Alderman Alan Wolff favored having everyone vote. "Then you never have to worry about having a quorum of that particular committee," he said. In the past, if a committee did not have enough members attending to make a quorum, and a nonmember alderman was attending, it would sometimes temporarily appoint that person to the panel for the evening.

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