Volusia County Council Considers Future of Advisory Boards

Volusia County Council Considers Future of Advisory Boards

A larger than usual number of residents showed up at the March 5 Volusia County Council meeting to give their public input on an item that could limit that input in the future.

While public comment periods are not in danger, the County Council is considering changing, combining or eliminating some citizen advisory boards.

County Administrator George Recktenwald reminded council members that staff was tasked to investigate the advisory boards by the County Council.

“The ask here was to look at these boards and see about combining them, repurposing them or if the purpose (for them) has passed,” he said. “We certainly do support community engagement.”

The council voted unanimously to have staff craft a proposal to replace the Code Enforcement Board with a special magistrate to handle cases and also discussed the elimination of the Library Advisory Board, the Business Incubator Advisory Board and the Animal Control Advisory Board.

Councilmember David Santiago said he had received several calls regarding the agenda item from concerned residents.

“I think our messaging was a little off on this,” Santiago said. “The discussion is healthy for government operations but also for the organizations that participant in some of these programs.”

Former County Councilwoman Pat Northey was the first of many speakers during the public comment period to argue against changes.

“I am here to encourage you to reject (the agenda item),” she said. “As a former county councilmember, I call BS on this agenda item. Advisory boards are an important part of county government.”

County Councilmember Jake Johansson said residents have other ways of having a voice in policy matters beyond advisory boards.

“I’m a less government kind of guy and I find advisory boards to be an extension of government,” he said. “I don’t want advisory boards for the sake of having advisory boards.”

To illustrate his contention residents have opportunities to be heard, Johansson reference the recent controversy surrounding plans for a fuel depot in Ormond Beach.

“We obviously have a contentious issue up in Ormond with a fuel distribution place,” he said. “There is no fuel distribution advisory board to tell us what to do but those people came out in force and shared with us outside an advisory board. There is a case where no advisory board was instrumental, very influential in getting our attention.”