City hopes to get people talking with new meeting format

Erin Perkins
By Erin Perkins
March 1st, 2013

Grand Forks City council is doing something new this week to try and get people talking.

Those wanting to have a say in a less formal setting than the regular public council meeting can now do so at a newly created Committee of the Whole meeting, which will be held for the first time at City Hall on Monday, March 4 from 9 a.m. to noon.

The meeting will be held once a month on the first Monday of every month. It replaces the former primary committee meeting.

“We want to open (the discussion) up more and get more in-depth,” said Grand Forks mayor Brian Taylor, suggesting that a round table might make the meeting more inviting.

“I’m looking forward to having the opportunity to have some time with the public and hopefully they’ll take advantage to sit down with us,” said councillor Cher Wyers.

Wyers likes the morning meeting because she feels people will be “fresh” and be able to provide thoughtful comments and discussion.

“It will save us money and allow the community more venues to speak out,” said city CAO Doug Allin, who had suggested the change to council having seen a similar format work in Peachland. “Some people don’t want to attend at night. Now they can grab a coffee and sit in.”

During the new committee meetings Taylor will act more like a moderator and will help guide the discussions and formulate the recommendations.

Taylor said a committee meeting, unlike a council meeting, is not a place were decisions are made but rather issues are discussed and those recommendations made at the committee level are then brought forward at the regular council meeting, which is held at 7 p.m. the same day.

Council hopes this move will not only attract more people to come participate in their discussions but it will also save them money too. When having a committee meeting in the evening they have to pay extra staff wages and any specialists they may invite must be paid after-hours rates too.

When passing the bylaw to change the meeting during the regular council meeting on Feb. 18, all the councillors were in favour of the change except councillor Michael Wirischagin.

“I don’t disagree with the idea – it is a wonderful concept,” said Wirischagin during the regular council meeting. “But it makes it difficult to attend as a family person.”

“We’re doing this as an experiment,” said Taylor. “We are counting on their being more attendance at the meetings (from the public) and we’ll see how it evolves. It can always be changed back again.”

This Monday morning agenda will include discussion on the city’s branding.

The regular council meeting, which is scheduled for the same day but at 7 p.m., is still open to the public and there will still be an opportunity to ask questions.

This new meeting time is just one of many changes council is making to engage with city residents. Council meetings are also available online through GFTV on Youtube. You can either watch the meeting live or see it after the fact.

For more information visit the City’s website at www.city.grandforks.bc.ca

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