Getting two people to agree on a meeting time is hard enough, so it shouldn’t be a surprise Penticton City Council is struggling with a schedule to suit their members, staff and the public.
“We have to start with the people in the audience, that is who we serve,” said Coun. Andre Martin.
City council has been considering changing their meeting schedule at the suggestion of Coun. Helena Konanz, following a spate of five and six-hour sessions earlier this year. The recommendation from corporate officer Dana Schmidt was to have a 9 a.m. meeting, which would recess when business was concluded, with public hearings scheduled for 5 p.m., and the regular meeting reconvened after for items requiring public input.
A 9 a.m. start didn’t sit well with Couns. Max Picton and Campbell Watt.
“There would be several meetings where I wouldn’t have a choice but to miss. I am running a construction company and we have scheduling deadlines to meet and clients to keep happy,” said Picton. “I could consider one that began after lunch, but there is no way I could support a 9 a.m. start for a meeting.”
Watt shared Picton’s concerns, but was also cautious that a 9 a.m. meeting eliminates the opportunity for working people to attend a council meeting.
For her part, Konanz agreed that a 9 a.m. start might disenfranchise some residents, but such to her original contention that Penticton has grown too large to handle all their business efficiently in an evening session. She said Penticton needs to look beyond its immediate neighbours for a meeting schedule.
“It is nice to know what our neighbours are doing, but it is difficult to compare ourselves to communities that are a quarter of our size,” said Konanz. “We are a larger community so we cannot have the same schedule as Oliver or Osoyoos.
“We have just reached that size … that we need to move on to having a change in our schedule.”
Schmidt said that beyond running late into the evening, the current schedule also comes at a cost.
If the city eliminated all evening meetings it would save a minimum of $1,600 for security, possibly $2,000 in catering and staff overtime costs.
“The real cost of evening meetings is the lost opportunity cost of using so many of the city management teams’ hours to attend after-hours meetings. Using two meetings per month for seven staff at an average of four hours, calculates to 672 hours, equivalent to greater than 19 weeks for one employee each year. This number does not include the many hours that other staff are waiting in the gallery to make presentations,” Schmidt wrote in her report.
Daytime meetings would allow staff to attend the portion of the meeting relevant to them and have the ability to work in their office before and after, providing for a more economical use of their time, Schmidt concluded.
After debating the benefits, costs and problems with various schedules for 20 minutes, council decided this would be too big a change to make without more thought, and voted unanimously to postpone further discussion to their next meeting on June 20.
“This is a significant change and we are doing it midterm,” said Coun. Judy Sentes as she made a motion to postpone the decision.