Fayette County

Urban County Council revamp proposed

The way the Urban County Council does its work will change dramatically if a proposal to eliminate work sessions and create additional standing committees is approved.

On Tuesday, a committee will recommend a major overhaul to the council's work flow. At the top of the list is eliminating the weekly work sessions chaired by the mayor, where the full council currently holds the bulk of its discussions.

More debate would happen at the official council meetings, and more city departments would be directly linked to a council committee.

Some council members think the current committee setup is inefficient, since the committees' responsibilities do not align with the government structure. The committee submitting the proposal, which first met in June, is chaired by council member Andrea James. Other members include George Meyers and Linda Gorton.

Currently, the council has four standing committees — Budget and Finance, Planning, Services and Intergovernmental — that meet once each month. Ten council members, two-thirds of the entire council, serve on each committee. The council has weekly work sessions, and official council meetings are held twice a month.

Under the committee's proposal, the weekly work sessions would be replaced by twice-monthly "committee of the whole" meetings, only on weeks in which there is a council meeting.

The proposal includes revamping the standing committee structure by going from four committees to eight, aligning the responsibilities of the committees with government departments and reducing the number of council members serving on each committee. The mayor, who now chairs the council work sessions, would not chair any of the standing committees or the committee of the whole.

Issues that have not been determined in the proposal are whether the committee meetings should be televised and when the council would hold closed sessions on items related to litigation, property acquisition and personnel matters.

All of the council's committee meetings are currently televised, and closed sessions are typically held at the end of work sessions.

If the committee revamp is approved, the council's legislative work flow would begin with the committee of the whole. Items would then be referred to various smaller committees. The council would add items to the official council meeting agenda during the committee of the whole.

Items referred to committee would go to one of seven:

■ Budget and Finance committee would oversee matters related to the city's Department of Finance and Administration and its divisions such as accounting and finance.

■ Social Services and Partner Agencies committee would handle issues related to the Department of Social Services and its divisions such as adult services and family services.

■ General Government committee would oversee the matters related to the administration, Department of Law and Department of General Services and its divisions such as parks and recreation and facilities and fleet management.

■ Public Safety committee would handle issues related to the Department of Public Safety and its divisions such as police, fire and community corrections.

■ Planning and Zoning committee would oversee matters related to the Division of Planning, including issues such as housing, infill and redevelopment, the farmland preservation program and historic preservation.

■ Public Works committee would handle the Divisions of Engineering, Building Inspection and Traffic Engineering and issues related to capital improvement projects, streets and roads and urban forestry.

■ Environmental Quality committee would oversee the Department of Environmental Quality, its divisions and implementation of the consent decree with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

With the exception of Budget and Finance, which would have 10 members, the other standing committees would have five members. The committees would meet once a month for two hours.

Once a committee has completed its work, its recommendation would go directly onto the agenda of an official council meeting, instead of to the work session before being added to the council agenda.