Susan:In the last community I served, Bangor, Maine, we had a long-standing Council Committee system. Generally, there were 4 to 5 Committees (the exact number and authority varied over time) composed of 3 to 5 Councilors (a 9 member Council) which met once or twice each month. As Manager, I generally attended all meetings. A staff member was assigned primary responsibility for Committee logistics (e.g., the Finance Director for Finance; Economic Development Director for Economic Development; City Engineer for Infrastructure; and Assistant City manager for Government Operations). As a general rule, all items that eventually appeared on a Council Agenda (other than simple consent items) went to Committee first with a recommendation back to the full Council. Each assigned staff member was responsible for preparing agendas and minutes, and all meetings were broadcast on the local government channel and recorded for additional documentation. Staff time requirements varied depending on the Committee and its workload, but most meetings rand from 30 to 120 minutes. The advantages of the system were that it allowed for issues to be fully discussed in a less formal setting than regular meetings, and in a setting that was less intimidating to the public. Frequently, items would be revised by the Committee so that a "better" document was sent to Council. The Council generally gave significant weight to committee recommendations, and our formal Council meetings tended to be much shorter since issues were addressed and analyzed in advance. Items were rarely amended or tabled at the regular twice monthly Council meetings. There was limited overlap with other volunteer boards and commissions, although recommendations from these groups would often be routed to a Council Committee prior to going to the full Council (with the exception of the Planning Board where only controversial issues would be referred first to Committee). Finally, each Committee had some limited independent authority. For example, the Finance Committee was authorized to award bids for up to $100,000, and several of the others had the authority to approve land leases and set fees for certain services. You can see the full Committee ordinance at Bangor's web site (www.bangormaine.gov) in the Code of Ordinances. Overall, I found the Committee system quite demanding of my and certain other staff time but quite effective in allowing the Council to do its business, particularly on complex or controversial issues.Good luck.