During the retreat at Whistlin Jack Lodge Thursday, the Sunnyside City Council agreed to reduce the number of meetings it holds each month.
At the recommendation of City Manager Bob Stockwell, Council agreed to hold its meetings twice per month now instead of four times each month.
The previous Council policy had the governing body meeting at 7 p.m. each of the first four Mondays of the month. Stockwell offered Council the option of meeting twice per month on either a Monday or a Tuesday to discuss business.
Stockwell suggested the change in meeting schedules to help streamline city government operations.
Council expressed concern about reducing the number of meetings each month. Mayor Pro-tem Mike Farmer was concerned that meetings only twice a month would extend the amount of time for each meeting into the late hours. Stockwell said the Council meetings shouldn't take any longer gathering just twice per month. Stockwell said it is a matter of reorganizing the meetings to make more efficient use of the time.
Stockwell said another reason for reducing the meeting to twice per month is that the city would save money in advertising costs. Stockwell said under the current schedule, the city is spending additional money every time Council cancels a meeting. Stockwell said under the new schedule Council could still hold an additional meeting each week, when needed. This would allow the city to incur only the additional costs of advertising when a special meeting was called.
Also having a Council meeting every two weeks would allow city staff to compile more information to be used in a work session study atmosphere, he suggested.
Stockwell also recommended that Council do away with one of the public comment periods. Currently, Council allows the public to provide input at the beginning and at the end of each Council meeting. Stockwell suggested Council decide to either allow one comment period at the beginning or end of the meeting. Stockwell also suggested Council put a cap on the amount of time people can speak, limiting the entire comment period to 15 minutes. The reasoning behind Stockwell's suggestion is to help speed up the meeting process. Stockwell said the city has a number of speakers from different organizations on hand at each meeting, many of whom are being paid for the time they are there. Stockwell said it is important the Council get to the people representing the different agencies as quick as possible.
Councilwoman Bengie Aguilar was concerned that Stockwell's suggestion would limit the amount of public input. Stockwell said it wouldn't, but his suggestion would force people to be more direct with their comments.
"Allowing people to comment is a healthy thing, but there has to be a limit," said Stockwell.
Citizens will still be able to comment on additional agenda items as each of them are brought before Council. However, citizens will be limited to the amount of time they can speak.
Stockwell said city staff will also improve the way it presents reports to Council that will help improve that process.
Council will receive a full report on the changes at its July 19 meeting.