Council Approves Merger Of Youth And Human Services Committees

Council Approves Merger Of Youth And Human Services Committees

The volunteer committees tasked with advising Town officials on youth and human services soon will be merged into one group.

The Town Council, with six members present on Tuesday night, unanimously approved a language change that will combine the two committees — Youth Services and Human Services — into one and allow for the committee to have two alternate members appointed.

That would enable the committee to regularly establish quorums and hold official meetings more frequently than the two current ones had been doing. 

Human Services Director Michelle Piccerillo, whose department has been advised by both committees, said the discussion about merging them had been ongoing since 2011. 

“Certainly attendance, a lack of quorums, is problematic,” Piccerillo said. “We are unproductive as a result of our inability to have meetings.”

Piccerillo, in a memo she wrote to the Council back in January, noted the two committees had been averaging about one or two official meetings annually. As such, “neither committee has been able to be productive in achieving their missions,” she wrote. 

On Tuesday night, Piccerillo added another point — it is important also to take an “intergenerational approach” to addressing human services matters. 

“To me it makes sense to have a whole committee. It’s incredibly important. Along with adult members, we need a youth voice,” she said.

Sherry Stekloff, a Human Services Committee member, said members of her group support the merger. 

Eric Gunther, a member of the Youth Services Committee, also spoke in favor of merging the committees.

Piccerillo said the mission would stay the same and that after the new committee is formed, she would like to set up a strategic plan to tackle a few target areas, including mental health among the town’s youth, opioid use and vaping.  She would also like to see the committee have a more collaborative relationship with the Chesprocott Health District and have a liaison with the Cheshire Senior Center’s Board of Directors.

Town Council member David Veleber said he thinks merging the two committees with a common goal and focus will be good overall.

“It’s going to be a very good committee to help our youth and our seniors — addressing human and youth services issues in a collective, collaborative manner,” Veleber said.

Jim Jinks, a current member of the youth services committee who had previously voiced concerns over the proposal, said he thinks the merger should “result in us having regular meetings, getting stuff done.” That might attract committed volunteers and make the overall group stronger as well, Jinks said. 

Town Council Chairman Rob Oris Jr. said he’s most interested in making sure the Town is serving as many community members as possible.

“It sounds to me we have a consensus —  to merge the groups and be diligent about scope of work going to do,” Oris said. “The intergenerational interaction, I think is really valuable. I think there’s some real benefits.”

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