Moving up the start time of Red Deer city council meetings to allow for more discussion prompted several councillors Monday to muse about whether this should become a full-time, rather than part-time job.
Coun. Lawrence Lee wondered if the work on Red Deer city council should really be considered part-time at this point, considering all the meetings, workshops and community events that councillors attend.
Coun. Vesna Higham concurred with Lee. She also questioned why Red Deer city council appears to have difficulty dealing with matters within an allotted time when other comparable communities can start meetings in the afternoon and still be done without incurring overtime for their administration.
Higham suggested asking questions of city managers in advance, and making shorter speeches. “Do we all need to weigh in on these issues? …I know I am probably the worst offender,” she added, noting that she needs to work on being less verbose.
The start of city council meetings, held every second Monday now on Zoom, has been moved up to either 10 a.m. or 12:30 p.m. instead of the previous 1:30 p.m. The start of public hearings was moved to 5 p.m. from a previous 6 p.m. The new schedule can be found on the city’s website.
Coun. Michael Dawe put in a lone vote against starting meetings earlier.
“I’m not trying to be inflexible,” said Dawe. But he still has medical appointments related to coming down with COVID last spring. And it was hard enough trying to schedule these medical appointments as it was, he added.
The change in city council meeting start times was proposed to alleviate the strain of late-night meetings, to reduce the number of additional meeting that had to be called due to items not being completed during a meeting, and to reduce overtime costs for administrators who have to attend meetings after-hours.
The statistics presented to council included the number of people who watch the Zoom meetings and hearings from January to September 2021: Regular council meetings had from 109 viewers to 384 viewers (the latter was when a decision was expected on the temporary homeless shelter). The number of viewers for 6 p.m. public hearings ranged from seven people to 45 viewers.