By John Burton
FAIR HAVEN — At a regular meeting of the borough governing body last Tuesday night, Mayor Michael Halfacre said he would like to have the borough’s Recreation Commission formally changed to a committee.
Halfacre acknowledged he hadn’t expected to discuss the issue that night and only broached the subject when asked about it by an audience member. But Halfacre did say he has asked the borough attorney to draft an ordinance that would make the necessary change, which would, “make things work the way they should.”
This is more than a simple slitting of semantic hairs, as both titles have legal definitions as to its role. As Halfacre explained, a committee serves in a strictly advisory capacity offering its opinions to different government entities.
A commission, on the other hand, has considerably more power. As a semi-autonomous body, a commission has the power to acquire and sell property, raise funds and hire and fire staff, along with other powers.
Locally, the recreation commission “has never, ever functioned as a commission in the past,” and “that is really designed for a much larger town,” Halfacre explained.
The borough’s rec commission was established about 30 years ago, on Wednesday explained Bob Krueger, who has been a member for approximately 25 years,
Krueger said he was somewhat perplexed as to why this change was necessary. “I’m concerned as to why we’re trying to fix something that’s not broken,” he said. “That was my biggest concern.”
The commission here has oversight of its budget, and traditionally works closely with the recreation director. In the past, Krueger said, the commission even offered its opinion on the director in terms of a job review, though the director continued to answer to the administrator and governing body.
“Obviously, for a town this size we’re not going out to purchase property separate from what the borough’s doing,” Krueger said. However, the one of the sticking points for him has been the lack of discussion with the commission as to why this should be done, alleging the mayor is leaving the commission members “out of the loop.”
“I’m not sure what’s trying to be solved,” Krueger said, adding this hasn’t ever been an issue with previous administrations.
A possible solution would be to leave it as a commission, but formally detail its responsibilities and powers, Krueger explained.
“If they want to do that I don’t have a problem with that,” he said.
It isn’t this commission or administration Halfacre said he was worried about. But this would establish ground rules moving forward. “We come across these things and change them as needed,” the mayor said.