Once your municipality has passed an ordinance enabling the creation of a municipal EAC and appointed members, your EAC will have to establish an organizational structure.
Your council should develop a set of bylaws as one of its first actions in order to provide detailed information on the council’s organization and operation. Bylaws can include information on membership, attendance, meetings, order of business and other details. Click here for a sample set of bylaws (this example is for a multi-municipal EAC; however, it can be modified for a single municipality).
Membership and Terms
Act 148 stipulates that an EAC may be composed of 3 to 7 members, who serve without compensation and are appointed to staggered three-year terms. It is possible for EACs with three members to function effectively, but a full complement of seven members gives access to a wider range of expertise and greater ability to undertake more projects.
Members are appointed by the local governing body. In the case of multi-municipal EACs, each participating municipality appoints an equal number of members to serve on the council. Act 148 states that “whenever possible, one member shall also be a member of the municipal planning board.” This cross-representation is an important factor in the effectiveness of an EAC.
The governing body selects the chair of a council, except in the case of a multi-municipal EAC, where the council itself selects the chair. The enabling legislation does not mention the election of other officers, but the general practice in Pennsylvania is to provide for the election of other officers, such as vice chair or recording secretary, at the January meeting.
Organization of standing and special committees may enable EACs to be more effective, by allowing a smaller group to focus on a particular issue. Standing committees relating to specific municipal functions, such as land use, parks and public open space, water resources and areas of ongoing interest, such as public education, may also be useful.
Act 148 allows up to seven members on an EAC. If more members are wanted, consider the establishment of an associate members program. Associate members do not vote but may participate in all other council activities and serve on standing and special committees. It may be desirable to have an associate member serve as recording secretary for the council to ensure that all appointed voting members will be able to fully participate in meetings. Associate members can be an important source of expertise, and should be given high priority for appointment to the EAC when vacancies occur. Associate members may be drawn from the community, watershed associations, schools, and other environmental organizations.
Act 148 also gives individual municipalities the authority to join with neighbors to form regional, multi-municipal EACs. Multi-municipal EACs are desirable and effective because they provide a mechanism for neighboring local governments to join together to focus on natural systems such as watersheds, forests or aquifer recharge areas as units rather than as fragments. The regional perspective offered by a multi-municipal EAC establishes a cohesive, long-term vision as the group plans for natural resource protection. Click here for sample ordinances in the EAC Handbook.
EAC meetings need to be scheduled on a regular basis, usually monthly, in a public place, on a day that does not conflict with other municipal meetings. More on Sunshine Law.