By Nikki Jamieson
Sunny South News
Coaldale town council has plans to start holding their regular meetings in the afternoon hours
Starting with their regular March 12 meeting, council meetings will be held at 1 p.m., and will coincide with the start of the town live-streaming council sessions.
Council had first inquired about changing the time of their regular meetings last year, during their November Strategic Management meeting, as they wished to free up their evenings.
“That was a preference decision from the majority of council to limit the number of evening obligations that they, as a group have, as well as we, as a administration have,” said Kalen Hastings, CAO for the town.
According to the Municipal Government Act, “a council may decide at a council meeting at which all the councillors are present to hold regularly scheduled council meetings on specified dates, times and places”.
Although regular meetings do not have to be advertised, “If council changes the date, time or place of a regularly scheduled meeting, the municipality must give at least 24 hours’ notice of the change”.
Kalen noted that other municipalities such as the City of Lethbridge and Lethbridge County, host daytime meeting. Although Lethbridge is considerably larger then Coaldale — 92,729 versus 8,215, according to the 2016 census — and counties and municipal districts typically host their meeting during the day, the Town of Taber, whose population is of similar size to Coaldale — 8,428 — voted November 2017 to host their regular meetings at 3:30 p.m.
Hastings said that currently, the town spends $5,700 annually in overtime for hourly staff, in addition to the approximately 400 hours of administrative time used by salaried employees each year for council meetings. Holding the meetings during the day and regular work hours would eliminate that additional expense. Additionally, if councillors posed questions that present staff members need more information on, they can check with other staff and get back to council that meeting. The time change would also allow for resolutions passed during council meeting to be implemented in real time, rather then waiting until the next day.
“The other advantage that council saw in this transition to daytime meetings. is that more staff would be able to attend the meetings, so if there is any questions within they’re specific areas of expertise and topics, they would be able to be at the meeting during regular hours, to answer those questions,” said Hastings.
“If there were additional technical questions that can up during the daytime, we could always bring in additional staff perhaps, even front line staff who are already at work, to come in to provide specific information that maybe asked about an item arising during that meeting, a little bit more difficult to do that when it’s 7, 8 p.m. in the evening when people are already home by 4:30,” said Hastings.
Hastings recognized that the earlier time could be troublesome for some delegations, but council would have the ability to schedule evening delegations, should daytime hours not work.
To help with transparency, council will be live-streaming their meeting, to allow those who cannot attend the meetings to view them in real time.
The live-stream will be available for viewing on the town’s website, http://www.coaldale.ca, and social media pages, with the recordings of older meetings later becoming available on the town’s website.
However, if the town isn’t ready for live-streaming by the planned deadline of the March 12 meeting, then the daytime council meeting would be deferred to a later date.
“They have to go at the same time. March 12 gives us a bit of a deadline to get our technology together. An if we find that that’s not ready, then we will report back to council and we will push back the date for the transition to daytime.”