Work session, voting format not working, council member says
by Erin Dentmon
February 10, 2013 12:00 AM | 2145 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
CANTON — At Thursday’s Canton City Council meeting, Council Member Bill Bryan said the council’s practice of having one work session and one voting meeting every month isn’t working.

“It’s almost a standing joke. We have to bend the rules anytime to vote,” he said. “Anytime we have a quorum, we can legally vote. Why not make it consistent?”

Bryan said the work session format has become “unwieldy.”

The council holds a work session the first Thursday of every month to discuss agenda items and a voting meeting the third Thursday of every month.

The council sometimes votes during work sessions if a matter is deemed urgent. At other times, council members have taken unofficial votes during work sessions. The council is legally allowed to vote at any advertised meeting with a quorum of council members present.

Council Member John Beresford said the council should keep the first meeting of the month as a work session but vote during those sessions when needed.

“Don’t make it such a big issue. Just say we need to vote, and vote,” he said.

Council Member Glen Cummins said he doesn’t want to see items introduced for a vote without the public being aware.

“I would like to see new items not voted on unless it’s an emergency,” he said.

Council Member Hooky Huffman said he was against the work session format from the beginning.

“We’re just slow and dragging it out,” he said.

Council Member Bob Rush said he thinks the current format allows the council to cover all its bases before voting.

Mayor Gene Hobgood said he wouldn’t necessarily be against changing, or at least tweaking, the meeting format.

“The wheels of government do turn slowly, but I think it’s designed to be that way,” he said. “It gives more people a greater opportunity to know what’s going on. I like the work session, but I’m not totally happy with the way it operates.”

Huffman said he didn’t see the public understanding the council’s issues more because of the work sessions.

“But the key is that they at least have the opportunity,” Hobgood said.

Cummins added that the work sessions are a good opportunity for council members themselves to learn more about an issue without having to vote immediately.

Bryan suggested looking at a pre-meeting work session, similar to the work sessions held by the Cherokee County Board of Commissioners.

“I think that’s part of where our dysfunction is coming from. We’re trying to have a work session and then not vote for another two weeks,” he said. “We need to tighten up in some way.”

But Beresford said he couldn’t support that idea.

“What we’re trying to do with the work session and voting meeting is be very transparent. If you have a work session in the afternoon, some people are at work,” he said.

The issue surfaced again later in the meeting as the council debated voting to approve an amendment to the 2012 budget as a result of the city’s audit.

“The head nod is ludicrous,” Beresford said.

The council did take an official vote to approve the budget amendment. The council also voted to support a partnership with Miller-Coors for a recycling event.

Earlier in the meeting, before discussing the work sessions, the council voted to declare an emergency regarding an out-of-service lift station at Harmon Fields. The council approved a $247,000 contract with Willow Construction to repair the lift station. City Manager Scott Wood said renting equipment to run the station is costing the city about $25,000 per month.
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