Merger of Cheshire committees put on hold

Merger of Cheshire committees put on hold

CHESHIRE – The possible merger of two volunteer municipal committees has been put on hold town councilors time to review details about the proposal.

On Tuesday, the Town Council held a public hearing on a plan to combine the town’s Youth Services and Human Services Committees. The proposal was introduced by Human Services Director Michelle Piccerillo, who previously told councilors that both committees struggle meeting quorums, limiting the amount of work each can accomplish.

Councilor Patti Flynn-Harris, who chairs the Ordinance Review Committee, officially proposed the change.

“We really had a lot of discussions with Michelle about it because it was her … desire to see (these committees) together, (but) we’re certainly open to anybody who has concerns or questions about how it would work,” Flynn-Harris said.

As proposed, the new Youth and Human Services Committee would be comprised of seven appointed members, with no more than five individuals representing the same political party. Five student representatives would also serve on the committee.

The committee would be responsible for making recommendations to the Town Council regarding social services-related matters, including outlining existing youth and human service programs available to residents, developing and recommending a strategic action plan to address the provision of youth and human services throughout town, and other tasks.

Some residents, however, spoke out against Piccerillo’s proposal, saying that the needs of town youths and senior citizens would not be adequately addressed by a combined committee.

Cathy Yacavone said that, while she understands that the two committees may have some overlap in terms of responsibilities, her belief is that two committees are still necessary.

“There’s such a difference in terms of the needs of youth and our growing number of seniors in the community,” she said.

Youth Services Committee member Jim Jinks referenced the 40 Developmental Assets survey administered in November to seventh through 12th grade students, the results of which showed that local youth do not feel valued by the community or provided enough opportunities to help better Cheshire.

As a solution, Jinks proposed having alternate seats for both committees that would allow for more members to join the committees and fill in when regular members are absent. He added that unaffiliated voters, too, can serve.

“There’s clearly a need to better serve Cheshire’s junior high and high school students, and a functioning Youth Services Committee is an excellent vehicle for achieving our common goals,” Jinks said.

Anne Harrigan, a Board of Education member, asked how exactly the two committees overlap in terms of responsibilities. Flynn-Harris, however, was unable to answer.

Piccerillo was not in attendance.

“She really would be the person to address that,” Flynn-Harris said.

Judy Villa, chair of the Cheshire Democratic Town Committee, asked whether Piccerillo works closely with the Cheshire Senior Center and the Cheshire School District. She also requested that the public hearing be held open until Piccerillo could provide more information to the public.

“I’d like to know the needs that seniors (have met by) human services, given the very active Senior Center and their senior agent,” Villa said.

Council Chairman Rob Oris commented that Piccerillo works “very closely” with the Senior Center representatives, as well as with District staff.

“I think that’s happening, and I think that’s appropriately happening,” stated Oris. “… We’re not looking to change that. We’re looking to enhance that, and I think that’s going to continue.”

The Council intends to continue discussion on the proposal during their July 9 meeting.