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City Council cuts meetings to two a month

Most of the Sunnyside City Council members have agreed to try a new format for their monthly meetings. The lone exception this past Monday night was Mayor Pro-tem Mike Farmer, who wasn't too keen on what was being suggested.

At the July 26 meeting, Council is expected to formally adopt a new schedule that will have Council gathering only twice per month. The mayor pro-tem was the only one this past Monday night against the idea of changing the current format for meetings.

Currently, Council meets four times per month on every Monday at 7 p.m. in the Sunnyside Law and Justice Center. The new schedule will have Council meeting only on the second and fourth Mondays of the month, starting at 6:30 p.m. Council will have at its disposal the opportunity to call special meetings, as needed. Council is also expected to adopt next week a schedule that will limit meetings to three hours.

The new meeting schedule will take effect Aug. 1.

City Manager Bob Stockwell provided those in attendance last night with some background on the changes. The change in Council meeting format was discussed during a retreat earlier this month.

"The suggestion came from staff," said Stockwell.

Stockwell said staff members felt the change in meetings would allow them to be more productive and efficient if Council met only twice per month. Stockwell also explained that by going to the two meetings per month format, Council would have more opportunities to hold workshop sessions to discuss items. Stockwell said by allowing for workshop sessions, Council would be able to discuss the preliminaries for items and then be able to make quicker, more productive decisions during the actual meetings. Stockwell also added it is a goal of his to have staff continue to provide more precise reports to Council that will make their decisions easier.

"I think we need to do it," said Councilman Bruce Ricks. "I am not sure if we need to do it now."

Ricks said in the coming months Council will have a full slate of items before it, where it might be more beneficial to have the four meetings per month schedule format. Ricks was also the one who suggested the idea of moving the meetings to 6:30 p.m.

Farmer commented that he isn't one to give up every Monday for meetings. But, the mayor pro-tem added he didn't want Council to look as if it was conducting business out of the public spotlight. Farmer said seven years ago, Council used to hold its workshop sessions at 6:30 a.m., which was done at that time, he said, to make it inconvenient for community members to attend. Farmer said he was concerned about the public perception that the Council would be making decisions behind closed doors.

Councilwoman Bengie Aguilar liked the idea of meeting twice per month. She said it would allow city staff to be more productive. Aguilar also said she would like to meet the second and fourth Mondays of each month in case she wanted to attend a nearby Council meeting in Grandview, which meets every first and third Monday.

Councilman Jim Restucci was also in favor of the proposed change, feeling it would give him more time to 'digest' what is in the agenda.

"I think two meetings are enough," said Restucci. "Let's go ahead and try it and see what happens."

Councilman Don Vlieger was willing to give the new format a try, but disagreed with the suggestion there would be more time to study agenda items. Vlieger said items are always being added to the agenda at the last minute and doesn't expect that to change.

Mayor Ed Prilucik was also in favor of trying the new format. He said he felt it would show citizens Council is trying to be more efficient. Prilucik said the city spends quite a bit of taxpayers' dollars to hold meetings every week.

. Mike Kantman can be contacted at (509) 837-4500, or email him at mkantman@eaglenewspapers.com

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