Potential change to council meetings dead without discussion

Osoyoos Council will leave it to a Council elected in October to determine if it wants to change the times it meets.

After balking at two proposed motions — the first to seek input from Osoyoos residents, the second to compare its practice of holding daytime Council meetings with those in similar-sized BC communities — Council this afternoon supported a third motion recommended by Town administration: to let the Council elected in October determine whether to move that body’s meetings to Monday evenings.

Four members of Council — Mayor Sue McKortoff and councillors Jim King, CJ Rhodes and Carol Youngberg — voted for the third motion; Coun. Mike Campol was opposed.

“We tend to look at other municipalities — municipalities our size and municipalities in the area — to see how they’re affected by what they do,” Coun. Campol said in support of a call for public discussion and study before a decision was made.

“We seem to be in the minority as far as times at which we hold our meetings, being day-time meetings. If I had to guesstimate, 90 percent of municipalities our size in BC do go to evening meetings.”

The benefit of holding such meetings, he said, was increased “availability of public input and to attract a more diverse council.”

“We’re here to represent our constituents the best we can and show as much diversity while doing that,” he said.

 

But councillors Rhodes and Youngberg disagreed, noting the Osoyoos community “was unique.”

“They’re in more industrialized areas, from my knowledge of the people I’ve spoke to,” said Coun. Youngberg of other BC communities.

She added she didn’t think moving to evening meetings would draw additional participation.

“We have very very little attendance to anything that we hold in the evenings,” she said. “Even public hearings are not well attended.

Added Coun. Rhodes: “I just don’t see the relevance of pooling other communities to see what they do because they have their own uniqueness.”

Mayor McKortoff spoke of Town of Oliver Council, which does hold its regular meeting in the evening.

Its members she said, “still have the ability to attend many daytime meetings.”

“While they are working people and probably meet in the evening, they also meet in the afternoon and they all go out to dinner together before they come back and go to the next meeting.”

Her preference was for prospective candidates to be canvassed in August prior to the election so they could make their own determinations as to time availability and commitment.

The discussion followed a January request from Council for Town staff to prepare a report  on the costs, challenges and opportunities of moving Council meetings to late afternoons or early evenings.

In that report. Janette Van Vianen, the Town’s Director of Corporate Services, suggests moving to evening meetings would cost the Town “around $40,000 – $45,000” in staff costs.

Those costs include an additional 82.5 hours each for four of the Town’s five directors and its deputy corporate officer over 15 meetings, 20 additional hours for its Community Services director and Senior Planner and another six hours for its building inspector.

“Alternatively, directors can alter their work day but this may cause operational issues,” Ms Van Vianen notes.

She also noted the concern meetings might run late and could make “for long days for Council and staff.”

Today’s decision follows a determination in mid-January to retain Council’s membership at five, rather than expanding to a proposed seven members.

The free-wheeling discussion that involved all five members of Council — including Coun. Rhodes, who is currently vacationing in Arizona but called in to participate — brought to a head other Council membership issues, including diversity and capacity to participate.

The key stumbling block for the four Council members voting against increasing the size of Council appeared to be the attached $50,000 price tag.

1 COMMENT

  1. So glad to read that this motion is being put in the hands of the voters…I do not see the need to spend additional money to have meetings in the evening and people work long enough hours in this town with the tourism industry so why should they have to work in the evenings if they were on council also.

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