FAIR HAVEN — What’s in a word? Apparently, not much as far as the Mayor and Borough Council are concerned. But to others, one word does make a difference.
The borough council at Monday’s meeting voted to adopt two ordinances that change the existing recreation commission to a committee.
“This is something we’ve been working on for the last couple of years,” explained Mayor Benjamin Lucarelli, noting the reason for the change is, “We’ve been calling it a commission when it’s actually been acting as a committee.”
And the change, Lucarelli said, would bring it in line with state statute, regarding how the different entities operate.
But two audience members appeared to take exception to the change and the changes that would be permitted under these ordinances.
Dick Fuller, Elmwood Lane, a former recreation commission member, said the council would benefit with more precise language, spelling it out what was the intent of the council’s action.
He and Susan O’Brien, another audience member and a Democratic challenger for borough council, both expressed concerns about the change, especially a provision in one of the ordinances that would change the term limit for committee members.
As a commission the terms were five years, and staggered. This ordinance, according to state statute, would set member terms at one year. O’Brien said it would mean the loss of continuity to lose long-serving members.
“That’s the ultimate intent,” Fuller said, “a committee that serves for a year.”
But Lucarelli and council members stressed the term limit doesn’t imply a constant turnover in the committee. And as a committee, as opposed to a commission, it is allowed to collect money for a recreation trust fund, to finance programs and activities, according to Borough Administrator Theresa Casagrande.
“If they felt there were things as a commission that we don’t do, why not just address that rather than change it?” on Tuesday asked Bob Krueger, the recreation chairman.
“It just appears to me to it’s become more politicized now that it has become a committee,” Krueger feared. “It’s not that it’s going to happen, but if someone has an ax to grind they could come in and get rid of people.”
Former Mayor Michael Halfacre said last fall he supported changing its designation from commission to committee. A commission, under statute, has more authority, more control of a budget, and has the ability to make land acquisition and other large expenditures, and was intended for larger communities, Halfacre explained in October.
And those powers would remain with the borough council, as it has always had, Lucarelli said on Monday.
A committee, on the other hand, serves in an advisory capacity.
“I don’t expect major changes in the way things operate,” said Krueger, who has been a rec commission member for 25 years, but he hopes the now committee doesn’t become embroiled in any political struggle.