At the suggestion of its newest supervisor, Brandon Whittaker, the Town of Osceola will consider increasing its town board from three to five members.

Whittaker explained his reasoning at the board’s September 3 meeting, saying the change would allow for a broader dialog and give taxpayers greater representation. He pointed out that the town’s population has grown from just over 2,000 in 2000 to nearly 3,000 in 2019.

Moreover, the shift would prevent the possibility of a full board turnover and allow board members to talk one-on-one between meetings without violating open meeting laws. 

“This mix of current members with new members will help with educating the new members on the budget, items and issues that are currently being worked on,” Whittaker noted.

He proposed paying for the increase by adjusting board compensation. The chair’s pay would decrease from $10,240 to $8,000. The supervisors’ would be reduced from $6,114 to $3,400. The changes would bring pay closer to that of neighboring municipalities and avoid increasing taxes. In fact, it could save about $868 to direct toward other needs in the town.

Whittaker would like to see the board approve the increase in the coming months so that constituents could vote for additional board members next spring.

Several residents expressed support for the idea during public comment, including Warren Johnson, Tom Magnafici, Jim Berg and Neil Gustafson.

Supervisor Mike Wallis voiced an interest in exploring the idea further. Less friendly to the idea, Chair Doug Schmidt expressed concerns about increased temptation among board members to violate open meeting laws, as one-on-one discussions are allowed outside of meetings. He also said the town had discussed the issue before and constituents had been opposed to the idea.

Whittaker invited more discussion and input from residents.

“I want people to come to the next meeting to speak about whether they’re for or against a five-member board,” he told The Sun.

Other business

• Instead of hiring a part-time snowplow driver, the board will consider hiring a second full time public works employee.

• Chair Doug Schmidt noted that the plan commission will continue to discuss the town’s potential positions on concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and broadband. Schmidt also noted that the commission itself is not a policy-making body and any changes to town code would go through the board.

• Supervisor Brandon Whittaker suggested working with Public Administration Associates to evaluate the workload of town staff and offer input regarding staffing and potential hiring needs.

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