The County of Wetaskiwin council will ponder whether their public meetings and format require tweaking. The topic was discussed at their regular meeting Oct. 4.
County CAO Rod Hawken presented a memo to councilors regarding the topic of changing the nature or frequency of regular council meetings.
“At the council general meeting held August 7th, 2018 council directed administration to present options for council meeting formats at the 2018 Strategic & Business Planning Session for the 2019 Municipal Budget,” stated Hawken in his memo to council.
The current structure of meetings are general council meetings on first and third Tuesdays, Public Works meeting second Tuesday of every month and Planning and Economic Development every second Thursday.
“As per Procedural Bylaw 2018/04, unless otherwise determined through resolution council will hold four monthly meetings established yearly at the organizational meeting.
“Meetings have been grouped to include two council general meetings, one Public Works council meeting and one Planning and Economic Development Council meeting.
“Generally speaking, issues related to Public Works are only on the Public Works agenda and similarly with Planning and Development issues.
“In rare circumstances, due to the timing of meetings, issues can be presented at any meeting regardless of the topic of the issue. All meetings, regardless of the type, are open to the public.”
Councilors saw in their report Hawken had surveyed other county staff to see how proposed changes to council meetings could affect operations.
If changes to the Planning and economic development schedule were made, it was stated this means less time for staff to prepare. “If a second Council meeting is scheduled during a month, the above focus will essentially be continuing this time dedication throughout the month and there will be an even lesser amount of time for the other department responsibilities and service delivery,” stated the summary.
With the current staff, the sheer amount of detail required for each application, meeting department requirements and meeting Provincial requirements, the department is barely keeping up. If we were to disrupt our established process for an unstructured agenda, crucial details could be missed in the confusion opening council up to the possibility of making ill-advised decisions as well as the county itself could come under scrutiny from Municipal Affairs.” Many other details were mentioned, including area structure plan applications and subdivision applications.
The Public Works department also commented on increasing their department’s monthly meetings. Cons for the idea included, “Each department preparing for two meetings per month is onerous as it leaves little time for developing internal programs. If council sees staff waiting to present and wasting time in chambers, it does not go over very well. Meetings that fill the day can be exhausting for some.”
Assistant CAP Jeff Chipley stated that a con to two P & D meetings a month included increased workload for planning the meetings, meaning, “(staff) would need to establish someone in that department to just solely focus on Council meeting prep and follow-up.
The Ag Service Board would also be greatly affected by meeting format changes, noted the memo. “If Council decided to continue with an ASB committee (which currently includes farm embers) I see it better that ASB continue with their own meetings. There would be no purpose to have farm members, as once again all of council would be at all meetings to make decisions.
“I know it was council`s decision to include farm members on the ASB committee and I know it has been a good experience having them. And I am sure that the councilors who are on the committee are also enjoying the input and communication the farm members portray.
“Currently ASB does not have a meeting each month but rather only four or five meetings a year. Would farm members be deleted out the governance or would they be required to come into every meeting? Having farm members come to each meeting would create extra expense; mileage and per diem.”
Councilors accepted the report for information, and will discuss the issue further at the upcoming strategic planning session.