Star Valley town councilors want to attract volunteers, but they worried Tuesday that they would first need to make people care.
Few people attend the town’s meetings, and councilors speculated the low turn out reflected residents’ level of interest. Tuesday night’s audience, for example, consisted of two reporters, two town staffers and one resident.
“Maybe we need to screw up a little more,” said councilor Gary Coon.
“Maybe we’re doing everything right,” said Mayor Bill Rappaport.
Coon said the council needs to energize residents before they become more involved. Councilor Paty Henderson introduced the idea as a way to help the town scrape through the economic recovery with its bare-bones staff.
“If I believe that government shouldn’t do everything, then I’ve got to figure out a way to do it,” Henderson said.
She also proposed finding a volunteer coordinator, also an unpaid position, to schedule people and recruit quality help.
“There are people who like to say they’re a volunteer, but don’t like to do anything,” said Henderson. A volunteer coordinator could weed out “the people who just like to look good.”
Councilors agreed the idea seemed good, but did not take a formal vote because the matter was slated for discussion only.
To create a successful program, Henderson said that the town should not schedule people for shifts longer than four hours because most volunteers will likely be retired people who don’t want to spend all day at town hall.
The town should also send birthday cards, hold holiday parties and keep a well-stocked break room, said Henderson.
Councilor Vern Leis worried that the town would incur administrative costs in managing the program. Henderson said that the volunteer coordinator would manage administration.
Other towns ask volunteers to help with a variety of tasks. Fountain Hills, for example, has an entire volunteer section on its Web site, with opportunities ranging from helping with a teen court program to coaching youth basketball.
Other opportunities include sitting on town commissions and filing at town hall. Fountain Hills, with a population of roughly 25,000, sees more than 500 volunteers annually, which means roughly 2 percent of all citizens volunteer.
Rappaport supported increased community involvement.
“We don’t get participation from residents unless it’s as major issue,” he said.
However, “community involvement is key.”