County may tinker with summer committee schedule

(Gazette file photo)

Meetings may be moved from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in hopes of encouraging community involvement



Summer meeting times might be on the move for the County’s committee of the whole.

While the measure will still need to be approved by council at their Nov. 14 meeting, committee of the whole supported a motion which would move the committee’s meetings during the summer months from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Currently July and August meetings of the committee are held at 9:30 a.m. while committee meetings in all other months are scheduled for 1 p.m.

The genesis of the move was a discussion which took place at the Oct. 12 committee-of-the-whole meeting. At that meeting, staff were directed to bring back a report outlining the pros and cons of holding committee meetings in the morning versus the afternoon.

At that time, both councillors David Harrison and Brad Nieman argued for later meeting times. The councillors said later meeting times could spur more involvement in meetings, both in terms of community members attending and in encouraging more residents with full-time jobs to run during election time. Harrison suggested all meetings should be held in the evening hours.

On Thursday, there wasn’t much opposition to moving the meetings back to 1 p.m., but several councillors said they didn’t believe changing the meeting times would necessarily translate to more involvement.

Councillor Gord Fox said while much of the talk had surrounded committee-of-the-whole meetings and council meetings, those discussions don’t take into consideration meetings for a number of advisory committees and sub-committees which councillors are expected to attend as well.

“What about social services and the police board, the health unit — are we going to have all these meetings at night?” Fox said. “It’s not going to happen. The reality of the situation is, if you want to be a councillor, then these are some of the things you have to take into consideration.”

Fox said both meetings of council at 7 p.m. and committee meetings at 1 p.m. are well attended if there is an issue that strikes a chord with the public.

“We had an issue here today and the chamber was full,” he said. “I don’t see a major problem with what we have going.”

Mayor Robert Quaiff said he could understand those with full-time jobs not wanting to have early-morning meetings.

“No doubt you’d probably have to take the entire shift off if you work a day shift,” he said, noting he didn’t see any problem with pushing committee meetings back to 1 p.m.

However, he said he wouldn’t support moving meetings any later than that.

“Going to 7 o’clock in the summer months, I mean there’s a lot of nice summer months and we all have activities we like to do,” he said.

There were those who voiced support for later meetings. While he supported the move to 1 p.m., councillor Roy Pennell said he would prefer evening meeting times.

“One o’clock tends to be better, but we as a council have very often stressed the point we would like to see young people involved in council,” he said. “When you have meetings during the day, it’s extremely difficult to encourage people.”

Pennell suggested 5 p.m. meeting times might be a happy medium.

“For somebody working, it gives the opportunity — maybe you have to take off an hour off from work — but they could effectively do it,” he said. “Look at every single meeting of committee of the whole we’ve had this summer — it’s been difficult getting enough (people) to have a meeting.”

However, that suggestion didn’t elicit much support.