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Aldermen debate new rules for volunteer board

Union Leader Correspondent

March 14. 2013 10:01PM

NASHUA - With the Review and Comment Commission receiving significant criticism in the past few months, city officials have drafted a revised ordinance that establishes new procedures for the volunteer board.

However, at least one alderman is voicing concerns about the proposed ordinance and suggested this week that nearly every paragraph in the document be amended.

Last summer, the commission received negative attention after a handful of local human service agencies complained about the process being used to determine how city funds are distributed among agencies.

The commission was also criticized by aldermen, who said the board failed to provide necessary budget documents, prompting the formation of an ad hoc committee to study the commission's procedures.

Alderman Daniel Moriarty, Ward 9, introduced the new ordinance to the Board of Aldermen on Tuesday, saying the proposed legislation requires the commission to submit - before May 15 each year - all completed applications and funding recommendations by the commission, all meeting minutes with voting results and audio recordings of the meetings, among other mandates.

"We put a lot of work into this," Moriarty said of the ordinance, while asking his fellow aldermen to support the recommendations.

Alderman Diane Sheehan, Ward 3, who first filed legislation seeking to address complaints raised about commission procedures, said Tuesday that the new ordinance clarifies the expectations of the volunteer board. A final report that was issued by the ad hoc committee earlier this year highlighted several concerns, including a lack of meeting minutes, no formal documentation on votes that were taken or who attended meetings, no comprehensive uniform training process for volunteers, a lack of administrative support and insufficient recruitment of volunteers, among other findings.

According to Moriarty and Sheehan, the revised ordinance addresses most of these problems.

"There are serious flaws within this particular document," argued Alderman-at-Large Mark Cookson, who said he would like to amend several sections.

Cookson, who serves as the aldermanic liaison to the Review and Comment Commission, said some portions of the ordinance are not necessary, while others are restrictive. Specifically, there is a clause identifying the term of the chairman seat as one year, and limiting the chairman position to three consecutive terms.

Cookson questioned why a term limit should be placed on the chairman. He raised additional concerns with the document when a motion was made to again refer the proposed ordinance to the aldermanic Human Affairs Committee for further analysis and review.

Sheehan attempted to clarify some of the issues raised by Cookson, but was cut off when the Board of Aldermen voted 8-6 to send the ordinance back to committee.

The Review and Comment Commission reviews funding requests from local human service agencies and then votes on recommended funding levels during each budget cycle.

Last year, about 28 agencies requested nearly $780,000 in funds, but there was only $438,000 in city dollars and $82,000 in federal dollars available to distribute.

It is up to the commission to study the applications and decide how to allocate the available funds.

Some of the agencies requesting funds include the Nashua Soup Kitchen and Shelter, Child Advocacy Center, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Nashua Senior Center, Nashua Pastoral Care, Harbor Homes and more.

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