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Council meetings to start at 2 p.m. in 2015

Public hearings will remain scheduled for 5 p.m. while general start time shifts an hour

By: Victoria Paterson

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Jul 16, 2014 06:00 am

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St. Albert city council meetings will start an hour earlier in 2015.

On Monday night, council voted that, for the remainder of this council’s term, regular meetings and standing committee on finance meetings will begin at 2 p.m. as of Jan. 1. Currently meetings start at 3 p.m.

Public hearings will remain scheduled at 5 p.m.

The motion squeaked through in a 4-3 vote, with Couns. Sheena Hughes, Cam MacKay and Tim Osborne against the motion.

Mayor Nolan Crouse instigated the discussion.

“This paradigm that you have to be at 4 o’clock or everything works in evenings after seven is so wrong,” he said, noting there are various jobs or volunteer roles that see people working at night rather than during the day.

Crouse’s comment was responding to an amendment attempt by Hughes, who wanted to change the meeting start time to 4 p.m.

Hughes argued it’s supposed to be a part-time council and that many nearby municipalities start their meetings in the evening hours. She said that evening hours make it easier for residents to attend.

Moving the start time even earlier, she said, would be a hardship on those who had to arrange time off work to attend.

Hughes’ motion to make meetings start later was defeated in a 6-1 vote.

The issue even brought out a concerned citizen, Dana Popadynetz, who spoke against the proposed change to 2 p.m.

“I believe this change … could discourage many qualified candidates for running in the next election,” he said. If council did go ahead with the switch, Popadynetz suggested the change have an end-date on it so the next council could change the time.

That prompted Crouse to edit his motion so the change is for the remainder of this term.

But Crouse did note the biggest arguments against bumping the start time to 2 p.m. are that it would cause an issue with public engagement or people won’t run. He noted not all people work during the day – and that his statistics show public attendance at council meetings drops off as the meeting wears on, unless there’s a public hearing scheduled for 5 p.m.

MacKay voted down the change to 4 p.m., but said he couldn’t support moving it to 2 p.m. either, noting 3 p.m. is when candidates in the last municipal election thought the meetings would start.

Osborne said 3 p.m. seems to work.

“There’s no easy answer to this one. I think prior to joining council I certainly heard a lot of people talk about wanting to see council start at 5 p.m.,” Osborne said, continuing that after his experience since November, he’s noted their meetings average about six hours.

A six hour meeting starting at 5 p.m. puts the end-time at 11 p.m., and he wasn’t confident that’s the best time to be making decisions.

“There’s no uniformity across the province,” he said. Many other cities start their meetings in the afternoon as well.

Osborne suggested the agenda committee could guess which issues might be contentious and schedule them for later in the meeting so residents have a better chance of attending.

Coun. Gilles Prefontaine pointed out that regular council meetings aren’t the only time obligations for the role of councillor.

“This is not an evening job. And I believe all of us knew that signing up for that. This is a part time job, not an evening job,” he said.

Coun. Wes Brodhead noted that prior to his retirement, he had to take vacation days and start work early so he could attend council meetings.

Like Osborne, he questioned people’s decision-making at 11 p.m.

Crouse pointed out to his colleagues that more than one member of council had asked for committee of the whole meetings to be changed to Monday.

“I just heard from about three or four weeks ago, committee of the whole meetings should be Mondays, because we have Mondays available,” he said.


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