Proposal to eliminate morning meetings fails

Published 9:28 am Tuesday, November 18, 2014

An attempt to change the regularly scheduled meeting time for County Commission meetings failed to garner enough support to pass Monday.
Currently, the Commission alternates between day and evening meetings. A resolution to move all regular meetings to 6 p.m. was brought before the full commission after Commissioner John Lewis made a request for the change during the group’s October meeting.
During the meeting Monday, Lewis said he had made his request to accommodate those citizens who work during the day and want to attend commission meetings. He said there are also members of the commission who have daytime jobs and moving the meetings to 6 p.m. would help those commissioners as well.
Several commissioners spoke out against the proposed change.
“We have older people who like to attend these meetings, and they may not be able to drive after dark and it does get dark early during the winter months,” Commissioner Sonja Culler said. “This way, they can attend every other meeting.”
Culler also said not everyone works a day shift and moving to all night meetings would alienate those who work during the evening hours but would like to attend the meetings.
Having all night meetings also would create more expense for the county, Culler said, adding that shifting all meetings to 6 p.m. would have an expense tag of “about $4,500” due to the county having to pay employees to work over at night for the meeting.
To counter Lewis’ point regarding members of the commission who work during the day, Culler said they knew the meeting schedule when they chose to run for the position.
“No matter when we have the meetings, some people are going to be disenfranchised,” Commissioner Al Meehan said, adding that he also was concerned that “night meetings are more expensive to the taxpayers.”
Other commissioners spoke in favor of changing to all night meetings, saying they felt it would better serve the citizens of Carter County.
“Since I’ve been on the Commission, it’s been said the alternation of meetings was like this: anything controversial was handled during the day meetings and anything easy was handled at the night meetings,” Commissioner Charles VonCannon said. “This was done because many of the citizens couldn’t attend the day meeting.”
Commissioner Larry “Doc” Miller said he had asked several of his constituents and they overwhelmingly supported the idea of all evening meetings.
Lewis made the motion to approve the resolution changing to all night meetings, and Commissioner Nancy Brown seconded that motion. The resolution failed to pass after a vote of 10-11. Commissioners Willie Campbell, Buford Peters, Jerry Proffitt, Meehan, Ross Garland, Bobbie Gouge-Dietz, Randall Jenkins, Culler, Ray Lyons, Robert Gobble and Cody McQueen voted against the resolution to change the meeting time. Commissioners Brown, Mike Hill, Ronnie Trivett, VonCannon, Isaiah Grindstaff, L.C. Tester, Danny Ward, Lewis, Miller and Scott Simerly voted in favor of changing the meeting time. Commissioner Robert Carroll abstained on the vote and Commissioners Beth Depew and Timothy Holdren were absent.
Members of the Commission also voted to overturn a rule it passed on a vote of 16-8 during the September meeting that would require two readings on each resolution before it could be passed.
During the meeting Monday, the Rules and Bylaws Committee brought a proposal to the full commission that would amend the second-reading rule to make it more practical by defining which resolutions would require multiple readings and which ones would not.
The amendment would require second readings on any resolution estimated to have a cost in excess of $100,000 or if it would permanently alter or replace existing rules, guidelines, codes or structures. An exception to this would be if the motion required immediate action or would require a response before the next full meeting of the commission.
“In my opinion, we are taking a very simple matter and making it very complicated,” Gouge-Dietz said. “We need to keep the matter very simple.” She added if there were questions or concerns on a particular resolution the commission could always request a second reading or vote to table the matter until it could be researched.
“We don’t need to bog the county down with a second reading,” Ward said, adding he had talked with the County Technical Assistance Service and was told only one county in the state currently holds multiple readings on resolutions.
On a vote, the amendment to the second reading rule failed on a vote of 6-16.
Following the failed vote, Peters made a motion that the commission do away with the second reading rule all together.
“This morning we have not followed that,” Peters said, citing three resolutions passed by the commission earlier in the meeting without a second reading. “If you have a problem with a resolution you can always ask to table it.”
The motion by Peters received a second from Culler and passed by a vote of 13-8. The following voted in favor of doing away with the second-reading rule: Campbell, Peters, Proffitt, Hill, Meehan, Grindstaff, Ward, Garland, Gouge-Dietz, Culler, Lyons, Simerly and McQueen. Dissenting were Brown, Trivett, VonCannon, Jenkins, Lewis, Miller, Carroll and Gobble.

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