Report details CA-village relationship

Task force tries to limit disagreements over powers of each group

July 28, 2000|By Laura Vozzella | Laura Vozzella,SUN STAFF

Community leaders hope to heal the strained relationship between the Columbia Association and its 10 villages by spelling out who does what for Columbia's 87,000 residents.

A task force that spent the past year trying to define the association-village relationship presented its findings last night to the Columbia Council in the form of a 29-page report called "Administering the New Town of Columbia: A Cooperative Endeavor."

If it is accepted by the villages and the council, the report will serve as the blueprint for how and why the entities should work together. "It is meant to bring together, in one place, an understanding of the roles and responsibilities" of the association and the villages, said Andy Stack, an Owen Brown Village Board member and vice chairman of the CA/Village Relationship Task Force.

The Columbia Association and the villages provide services to residents, with the association involved mostly in communitywide matters and the villages operating on a more local level.

But at times, there have been disagreements - or just plain confusion - over who handles what.

Stack said some previous council members questioned why the villages run the village centers when the facilities are owned by the Columbia Association. Village officials felt their authority was being challenged, and relations soured.

The relationship reached a low point, village officials say, when the association suddenly, and without explanation, took village workers off its employee rolls in 1999.

"The relations were getting very strained," Stack said. "We were going round and around about who does what and why."

Formed in August, the task force included members of the Columbia Council, village boards, association staff and village managers. Former Columbia Council Chairman Joseph Merke of Town Center chaired the task force until he decided not to seek re-election this spring. Stack has led the task force ever since.

Describing the relationship as a "partnership," the report states that it will work only if both sides show respect and acknowledge the other's independence.

In a sign that relations remain prickly, Stack supplemented the report last night with a list of suggestions from village board members, who were briefed on the findings this month. The village officials wanted to add a list of goals for the association because the report laid out goals for the villages.

Among the suggestions for the association: "Assure that proper and appropriate accounting and personnel-management techniques are employed."

Sources have said village employees were stricken from association employment rolls because the arrangement threatened the association's status with the IRS as a tax-exempt, nonprofit corporation. The council voted at a meeting this month to seek a legal opinion on whether the reason for the change may be disclosed. So far, it has not been made public.

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