Council to study meeting schedule

In a continuation of a series of discussions regarding restructuring meetings to ensure councillors get as much information as possible on all of the town’s business, council will take a closer look at an idea introduced by Coun. Rick Wiedenhoeft on Monday night.
Coun. Wiedenhoeft said his current problem is that it’s very difficult to get enough information from all the divisions (Administration and Finance, Community Services, Operations and Facilities, and Planning and Development) if he doesn’t go to all of their meetings.
Yet it’s “impossible” to attend all of them all the time.
If council did away with the executive committees and brought all business items to one committee of the whole meeting, however, it would “take forever.”
“And if you cut the meeting short, you’re going to eliminate some of the discussion that probably should take place,” he remarked.
At the same time, Coun. Wiedenhoeft noted division managers and some councillors like the executive committee structure, and it shouldn’t be done away with.
“How can we keep the executive committees, committee of the whole, and council together?” he asked, before revealing an idea that would see a three-week meeting cycle in place.
The first week, all four of the executive meetings would meet either on one day (perhaps a Monday) or several days throughout that week.
The next week, the committee of the whole would meet and go over what had been discussed at the various executive committee meetings. And the third week, council would meet Monday evening as it does now.
This would repeat itself on a three-week cycle.
“I don’t think there’s anything in town that would be hurt by having council meetings every third Monday,” Coun. Wiedenhoeft said, adding certain delegations could take place at committee of the whole meetings or at special council meetings, if need be.
“Why do I think this satisfies everybody’s concerns?” he asked. “From my perspective, it allows the executive committees to continue, it will shorten committee of the whole to a reasonable time, and council meetings will probably be half-an-hour.”
Coun. Todd Hamilton asked if there was a reason council meetings were every second Monday of the month, to which Clerk Glenn Treftlin replied it simply was procedural bylaw and could be changed if council desired.
“If we remained in this situation, with the committees we have now, kept the whole structure the same, would it satisfy your needs, Rick, if you received a copy of every agenda?” asked Coun. Roy Avis.
“I do receive a copy of the agendas, but they don’t tell you what’s going on,” replied Coun. Wiedenhoeft.
Coun. Tannis Drysdale noted the proposed structure change is almost the same as it is now, with the real difference being having committee of the whole and council meetings on different nights.
But Coun. Wiedenhoeft said the difference is significant, as there are time constraints having two meetings on one night as is done right now.
He felt that having council to do things according to a strict schedule, with delegates waiting in the wings, prevents such open, possibly lengthy discussion as would be had at a committee of the whole held on a separate night.
“I don’t want to be pulling every item on the committee of the whole agenda,” Coun. Wiedenhoeft remarked, referring to his current reluctance to thoroughly discuss matters at the committee of the whole level when a council meeting is slated to follow it.
Coun. Struchan Gilson said he disagreed with how much time having a three-week rotating schedule would take up, and felt it “locked in” councillors who might want to travel in the gap that currently falls between council meetings.
Mayor Dan Onichuk said he felt Coun. Wiedenhoeft’s idea would allow councillors, the media, and the public more opportunities to access information, and help “create transparency.”
The extra meetings would be open to the public, as they are now, and possibly even broadcast on Shaw Cable Channel 10.
But Coun. Drysdale said she felt it wouldn’t make anything more accessible than it currently is, and if anything, would slow down the process of getting items from executive committee level to the committee of the whole and finally to council—especially if council were meeting every three weeks and not the second and fourth Monday of each month.
Clerk Treftlin noted the meetings inevitably would mean more agendas he would have to prepare and there would be logistics problems to figure out, such as when would be a deadline for someone to book a delegation or get an item on an agenda.
Coun. Wiedenhoeft stressed later in the meeting that this was only an idea, and he’d be more than willing to hear what other councillors might propose.
If they didn’t like his concept and preferred the way things currently are done, they could just put it aside and forget it, he added.
Coun. Avis and Mayor Onichuk both noted they would like to see a schedule of how the meetings on a three-week rotating basis would potentially work before making any decisions.
Council then agreed Clerk Treftlin and CAO Mark McCaig should make up a schedule of dates for meetings so they could get a better idea as to how they would fall on the calendar.
This will come back before council at a future meeting.