Haines Borough residents who want to sit on the new Code Review Commission, shouldn’t expect a short-term project. The commission will meticulously comb through borough code, and make recommendations to the assembly for changes or modifications. The task will be ongoing throughout the winter and beyond. But the goal of the group is to get rid of redundant or defective sections of code to make the document more palatable and relevant.
The code commission idea was a byproduct of the controversial Minor Offenses Ordinance. An ad hoc Minor Offenses Committee softened some language and adjusted fines in the minor ordinance, but they couldn’t add or remove offenses. Those rules are still listed in borough code.
The new commission will make recommendations to do away with, or change, sections of code that are no longer useful.
So now, after public hearings and a nod from the assembly, the code review commission awaits its new members.
The notice announcing the group and calling for participants went up on July 18. Mayor Jan Hill said it wasn’t brought up at the last assembly meeting because it had been announced at a previous meeting.
“I’ve had several people chat with me a little bit about it and asking some questions,” Hill said. “I’ve only received one official application.”
The seven-member advisory board will be appointed by Hill. The assembly voted to launch the commission at its June 28 meeting after a lengthy discussion. The conversation focused on whether the assembly should strike the term “local attorneys” from the ordinance’s wording, and whether the new group should be called a commission or committee. In the end, it’s a commission, and the term “local attorneys” was axed in regard to who the group would consider suggestions from. The assembly also voted to remove the section of the ordinance that talks about the commission seeking funds to cover expenses.
Assemblywoman Diana Lapham said at a recent meeting before the ordinance was approved, that no matter what the group is called, there’s a lot of work involved.
“The perception idea of a commission over a committee, this is a standing committee of the assembly and that’s the idea I was coming from when I made this amendment,” Lapham said. “Anything that this committee does will be reviewed by our attorney, as well our staff, our manager and then come before the assembly. They do not have the power to just arbitrarily change code and pass legislation in that regard.”
Mayor Hill agreed that whoever is selected will have to devote a substantial amount of time and energy to the undertaking.
“This will be probably one of the major winter projects,” Hill said. “Some of us have a little more time in the winter to devote to this kind of a commitment. I think that this is going to be a big job and once they get started, I believe they’ll be meeting regularly. I know that anybody that gets appointed to this committee, will be ready to work.”
Like the Minor Offenses Ordinance, the code commission proposal drew a lot of interest from the public.
“So many times we form committees, ad hoc committees especially, and we don’t have choices,” Hill said. “We’ve always got vacancies. I think there’s interest for this one, so I’m hopeful that we’ll have choices so it’ll be a balanced committee.”
Hill said they haven’t decided if assembly members will be part of the group. She says, she’s looking forward to a cleaner, more up-to-date code in the not-so-distant future.
“It’s going to be thorough. My hope is when we get done, we’ll get rid of those conflicts and clarify things aren’t clear, and possibly some of the code is outdated and (parts) need to be removed.”
Interested code champions can submit a letter of interest or pick up an application online or at the borough administration building. Resumes or a detailed description of qualifications are strongly encouraged. Applicants must be a Haines Borough resident as it is defined in code.
“It would really be nice to have choices so that it could be a balanced committee,” Hill said. “Until we achieve that balance, the notice to apply to get on this committee will remain open.”
Hill hopes to make the appointments by the Aug. 23 assembly meeting.