Turner Valley council is doing away with its daytime meetings and sticking to evenings in an effort to better suit residents.
Town council voted unanimously at its Oct. 30 organizational meeting to replace the 9:30 a.m. regular council meeting the first Monday of each month with an evening meeting that starts at 6:30 p.m. This is the same time council meets the third Monday of each month.
The first council meeting of each month was changed from evenings to daytime in early 2014 to better accommodate staff and address time constraints some councillors faced.
“Originally, we moved the meetings to a morning meeting to help facilitate the working careers of individuals on council, but on the campaign trail we had a message that there would be more accountability to the public,” said Deputy Mayor Barry Crane, who served on council last term. “This is a good move toward that and we can move our schedules around for the sake of public interest.”
Crane said the daytime meetings alleviated the need to pay overtime to staff required to attend, but he said arrangements can be made to offset that.
“We can make sure we schedule appropriately as to not incur overtime penalties,” he said. “It’s an easy fix.”
Holding the twice-monthly council meetings in the evening addresses citizens’ requests that there be more engagement opportunities with council, Crane said.
“There is not a lot of attendance on a regular basis,” he said of the meetings. “It’s more so the perception that the availability of council is there for the public and we need to make sure that we are doing everything in our power to make it possible for the public to come and voice their concerns whenever they want.”
Crane said council plans to take it a step further by making council meetings more accessible to people unable to attend.
“This new council has heard loud and clear that social media is a tool that should be utilized more often and we are going to look at that in the near future and see what possibilities we can bring,” he said. “Live-streaming is on our top three list of issues we want to try to address as soon as possible. We want to look at the options and learn from other councils what works best for them.”
At its Nov. 6 meeting, council requested administration investigate the cost, as well as policy and procedure development, to live-stream public meetings and report back to council with its finding at the Feb. 28 meeting.
“There’s been a lot of interest in the community about this,” said Coun. John Waring.
Coun. Garry Raab agreed, saying live-streaming is one of council’s priorities.
“People want more transparency,” he said. “They would like to see what’s happening here.”
To prepare the report, Heather Thomson, manager of legislative services, said administration will connect with other communities that are live streaming their council meetings.
She said she’s already connected with Canmore, and learned its having a tough time with live-streaming due to Internet limitations.
“As you are aware, we have a difficult time with broadband in the office, and with broadband coming into town next year all of these things will have to be considered when we’re moving forward,” she told council.
Thomson said council and administration will also have to investigate any FOIP issues and rules under the Municipal Government Act.
“We have to take all of these things under consideration when we look at policies and procedures of live streaming and the costs of doing that,” she said.