The 2020 Durham Comprehensive Plan was adopted by the Town Board on June 2, 2020 after two years of work by a committee of residents and Town Board members.
The Town Board has set up a Comprehensive Plan Implementation Committee (CoPIC). The Chair of CoPIC is Joan Breslin (firstname.lastname@example.org – Joan is also the town’s Deputy Supervisor) and the Deputy Chair is Bernard Rivers (email@example.com). The other members of CoPIC are the six working group Convenors listed below.
CoPIC working groups
CoPIC has six working groups – one for each of the main recommendations in the Plan – as follows:
- Improve communications working group (Convenor: Karen Rothmyer Rivers – firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Increase community activities working group (Convenor: Terry Ward – email@example.com)
- Enhance economic development working group (Convenor: Joanne Schindelheim – firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Advocate for improved broadband working group (Convenor: Rosemary O’Brien – email@example.com)
- Encourage better property maintenance working group (Convenor to be determined)
- Improve historic preservation working group (Convenor: Dan Clifton – firstname.lastname@example.org)
As of early August 2020, thirty-four Durham residents had agreed to serve as working group members. Their names are here. To add your name to the list, or to move to a different working group, email Joan Breslin or Bernard Rivers, as above.
Each working group usually meets twice per month, chaired by the Convenor.
Working group members are asked to focus on the issues, not the personalities, and to work together respectfully, harmoniously and with enthusiasm. They are welcome to disagree with ideas or perspectives that are raised by others, but they are urged not to criticize anyone in personal terms.
Role of convenors
The convenor of each working group is responsible for setting the dates for future meetings (in consultation with the members), for emailing members to remind them of each upcoming meeting, for chairing each meeting, and for taking notes.
Each convenor is also asked to submit to Joan and Bernard by about the second Tuesday of each month an email summarizing activities of their working group during the prior month. Because of Covid requirements, this email should also include a list of people who attended such meetings in the town barn.
Based on these emails, Joan and Bernard write a monthly report on CoPIC activities. This is presented to the town board at its meeting on the third Tuesday of each month. Copies are available here.
A source of background information
Working group members may find useful background information on Durham in Appendix 1 to the Comprehensive Plan, accessible above.
Methods of holding meetings
There are three main ways in which a working group meeting can be held:
- Meetings can be held In person, with masks and social distancing. Such meeting can be indoors at the town barn (7309 Route 81 East Durham, at the intersection with County Route 27), or outdoors at Brandow Park (where there is a roof to protect against sun or rain). At the town barn there is WiFi (the guest network’s password is “Visitors”); at Brandow Park there is no WiFi or cellphone network. If convenors want to hold a meeting at the town barn, they should ask Janet Partridge, the town clerk (email@example.com), whether it’s available; it usually is. It’s open Mondays through Thursdays 8 am to 3 pm. If convenors want to hold a meeting at the town barn at any other time, they should arrange for Janet, Joan Breslin, or some other town employee or town board member to open it up and then lock it at the end. The town barn has quiet air conditioning. Most working group members have been willing to attend meetings in person, which is great because in-person is certainly best when people haven’t yet gotten to know each other well.
- Meetings can be held via Zoom video. The problem with this is that Zoom can’t be used by people who don’t have access to broadband. Also, although Zoom can be great when everyone is remote, there’s no obvious way of using it when some people are remote and some are at the meeting room in person.
- Meetings can be held via call-in phone. The best way to do this is for convenors to set up an account with FreeConferenceCall.com, which is also what the town board and CoPIC use. There’s a combined room-wide microphone and speaker at the town barn that convenors can use (after checking with Janet) and that they can connect to a phone or laptop using Bluetooth. However, the Bluetooth link can be problematic. Call-in works very well when everyone is on the phone and someone is capably controlling who is muted and who is not, and reasonably OK when most people are on the phone and just a small number are there in person; but when most people are present in person and only a few people are on the phone this is not a very good option, because the microphone/speaker will inevitably be quite a distance from some of the in-person people, which makes it hard for people on the phone to hear what they are saying, and vice versa. Also, to chair a meeting while also grappling with the call-in technology is not a lot of fun.
Which of the above three approaches to use for each meeting is for convenors to decide. Probably no method will satisfy everybody in a working group, so convenors will just have to go for what they feel is best for the majority of their group.
If CoPIC plans an activity that costs money, one option is for the town board to cover the costs of that activity from the town budget. But this won’t often be possible; the town budget is tight. The other option is for CoPIC or the town board to raise the needed funds from external sources.
Regarding the latter option, Recommendation 1 in the Comprehensive Plan says:
“[CoPIC should] seek grants that will help finance implementation of the recommendations in the Plan. Possible sources of funding include state and federal agencies, private and community foundations, and Durham residents. If the grants have to be made to a nonprofit organization rather than to the town, and if an appropriate nonprofit organization does not already exist, [CoPIC should] establish and operate a nonprofit organization to request and administer these grants.”
If CoPIC does set up a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization to operate as above, the members of CoPIC could serve as the board that oversees the nonprofit. Money given to the nonprofit would only be used for activities organized by CoPIC or one of its working groups. Organizational and individual donors to the nonprofit could, if they wished, specify that their donation must only be used for some specific CoPIC activity.