County puts end to night meetings
By Steve Herring
Published in News on July 7, 2013 1:50 AM
Wayne County commissioners' three-month experiment with evening meetings -- a campaign promise for some of them -- has ended.
Arguing that evening meetings would be more convenient for the working public, commissioners in April voted 6-1 to hold their first meetings in May, June and July in the evening, with public comments to start at 6 p.m.
Reverting to the old schedule was not on the board's Tuesday evening agenda, but was added during the briefing session held prior to the regular session.
Initially, commissioners had indicated they would talk about the meetings to set up a fuller discussion and vote at their July 16 meeting. They also said that would allow time for public comment.
However, commissioners decided not to wait.
Commissioner John Bell, who had voted against evening meetings, noted that no action was required to end the evening sessions since the original vote had been to try them on a three-month trial basis.
Shifting back to morning meetings on the first Tuesday of the month did require a vote to change the public comment time from 6 p.m. to 10 a.m.
"Well, I guess a year or so ago I am the one who brought up the idea about having evening meetings," Commissioner Ray Mayo said. "From what I have seen, this is the third meeting that we have had. I have sort have been keeping tally. When we have awards for employees, and we have department heads that are involved in our meeting after all of those people leave, we have regular citizens who come to every single meeting almost, but we have had a net gain of about five people per meeting.
"So it is awfully inconvenient in a lot of cases for our staff to kind of organize everything. And to be honest with you, I am getting used to getting up early. In looking back, Mr. Chairman, I am going to make a motion at this time that we go back to morning meetings, have our public time at 10 a.m., with a stipulation that we still have a minimum of two meetings offsite."
The two meetings, at the discretion of the board, would be in the evening and similar to ones held over the past year at Charles B. Aycock and Southern Wayne high schools, he said.
Chairman Steve Keen asked Mayo if there was a specific date that he wanted to implement the change such as the first meeting in August. Mayo agreed.
"I would hope that as we go forward that if we do have some, I won't call this contentious items, that we consider having any public hearings on contentious items in the evening," Commissioner Joe Daughtery said. "I am not amending the motion. I am just saying that we consider that. If it would be inconvenient for people to attend and have their voices heard, I would hope we would be able to accommodate them."
Commissioner Bill Pate said he agreed. Commissioners could call a special session for that, he said.
Mayo said that was why he had included the minimum of two off-site evening meetings in his motion.
"Sometimes, depending on where the public hearing is at, if it is close to Southern Wayne (High School) for example, we may want to call a meeting at Southern Wayne," he said. "That is as convenient as it gets if it affects that area.
"That is why my motion includes that we consider a minimum of two a year. We can call six if we want to, depending on what public time that we need."