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Montgomery says 'no' to senior citizen panel : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
Montgomery says 'no' to senior citizen panel
Board member, volunteers to continue to oversee monthly program

by John Etheredge


The Montgomery Village Board has rejected a suggestion by Village President Matt Brolley to appoint a senior citizen advisory committee.

In proposing the creation of the committee during a special board meeting Thursday morning, Brolley suggested the committee could build on the work of a group of local resident volunteers who have been organizing and hosting the village's monthly senior citizen lunch program for the past six years.

The lunches are held on the second Tuesday of each month in the multi-purpose at village hall from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The lunches are open to area residents ages 55 and older and also include an informational program or entertainment. The cost for the lunch is $4.

Board member Pete Heinz oversees the program and the volunteers.

Some board members initially voiced support for establishing a committee to oversee the program. However, they backed off when Steve Andersson, a village attorney, advised them that the committee would be subject to the Illinois Open Meetings Act.

Andersson noted that in addition to the board itself, all village committees and commissions are subject to the act, which is intended to ensure public access to all local governmental meetings.

When questioned by board members, Andersson said any committee, commission or ad hoc group established by the board is subject to the act and its provisions.

"When you take that step as a board and create a more semi-permanent form (of commission or committee) the Open Meetings Act applies," Andersson said.

Board member Doug Marecek asked Andersson if the committee would still be subject to the act if it was designated as an advisory committee by the board.

Andersson said the act would still apply.

"The Open Meetings Act is very, very broad and intended to promote transparency," Andersson said, adding, "The moment you (the board) start creating something, it has to be transparent."

Board member Stan Bond questioned if the act would apply if the board were to limit the number of village board members on the committee.

"It's no longer the trustees (board members) we are talking about. The Open Meetings Act covers the board and sub-entities of the board and you (the board) define what a sub-entity is by creating it," Andersson said, adding, "That's why when Pete (Heinz) acts on his own with a group of volunteers, he's not the board so therefore they are not a formally recognized entity. But the moment you (the board) start talking about creating a formal entity then it becomes subject to the act."

Andersson added that if the board were to appoint a senior committee all of its members would have to complete an Open Meetings Act training session that is on the Illinois Attorney General's website.

Heinz said he didn't see the need to appoint a committee.

"I don't agree with the Open Meetings Act. We don't need that for the senior luncheons," Heinz said.

He added, "I've been running this thing ever since we moved down here (to the new village hall in 2008) and we've had no problems so I think we should leave it the way it is."

Board member Doug Marecek said he liked the idea of creating a committee, but added, "I think we are overcomplicating it."

Board member Theresa Sperling said she does not believe the current volunteers that work with Heinz would take the online Open Meetings Act training that would be required if the board created a committee.

Brolley explained that in proposing the committee he was attempting to insure the village would have a "core group of people" to keep the senior lunch program going in the event that Heinz one day decides he no longer wants to do it.

"We want to build on everything you've done," Brolley told Heinz.

In addition, Brolley said he believes by establishing a committee it would be good for the village since Heinz and the volunteers are spending revenues generated by the program.

Brolley also noted the senior lunch program has a designated line item in the village's budget.

When questioned by Brolley, Jeff Zoephel said currently Heinz will purchase items for the senior lunches and then list them on an expense report he gives to village staff. Zoephel said he reviews and then signs off on the report.

"Usually the food for the lunches comes from (the) Riverview (Diner) and village staff picks that up and uses a village credit card to pay for it. They then turn in a receipt (to village staff) with the credit card bill," Zoephel said. "That's how we handle most of the expenses."

Zoephel added that the senior lunch expenses are included in the regular budget reports presented to the board.

When questioned by Brolley, board members indicated they are comfortable with the manner Heinz and his volunteers are handling the program's finances.

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