Council moves to meet once a month, adopts new ordinance

Published 1:43 am Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Bainbridge City Council will be meeting a little less each quarter after an ordinance was adopted Tuesday in a 3-2 vote, changing the meeting schedule from six times each quarter to four. This is equivalent to roughly one time each month rather than the scheduled two times each month. Under the new ordinance one of those meeting each quarter would be dedicated solely to finances.

While the issue came up for a vote in February and passed, it was later discovered any meeting or schedule change would have to become an ordinance and the council would have to have a public hearing to approve the ordinance.
The city held a public hearing Tuesday to allow public comment specifically on the issue and four residents of Bainbridge stood to speak.
All four residents spoke against the council passing the proposed ordinance.
“You are not giving the community a chance to know what is going on and you are not giving them a chance to participate in what’s happening,” Olive Wedderburn December said. “Are you going to reduce your salary? You’re not? You are going to be reducing your service to the community.”
December told the council she felt if the number of meetings reduced, their salary should reflect that change.
Once the public hearing was closed and the council began a discussion about the meeting changes, Mayor Edward Reynolds responded about a salary change.
“The pay is very minor and it is certainly smaller than any city or government agency anywhere in this region,” Reynolds said. “So I take offense to the fact that people would questions our decisions and processes based solely on the financial part of this.”
Reynolds said he was in favor of the meeting schedule change as a more efficient way to use city resources and added he felt residents of Bainbridge would not see a decrease in the council’s accessibility to the public due to the low volume of residents that attend the council meetings now.
“I do think we have always encouraged the public to come to our meetings and we have an open forum every week,” Reynolds said. “And yet people don’t come. I think it speaks more to the fact that to interact with our government I think people are mostly satisfied to how they get their questions answered.”
Councilwoman Glennie Bench who made the initial motion and proposed the ordinance, said she proposed the change in meetings because for the last year, the council has only seen one or two action items on the agenda each meeting.
“If the meeting structure fits the agenda and if the meeting agenda doesn’t require two meetings a month, but only four meetings a quarter, then the meeting schedule should accommodate that,” Bench said. “You should not meet just to meet. If there is not work to be done, then it is not necessary to meet.”
Council members Don Whaley and Phil Long both spoke in favor of trying the proposed meeting schedule for one year.
Whaley said he felt that the planned financial meeting once each quarter would help both the city and the public by creating a forum around the city’s financial state as the council moves forward in making financial changes.
Council members Luther Conyers and Roslyn Palmer spoke against reducing the meeting time.
“I just think that meeting twice a month in the past has not hurt us in the last few years,” Conyers said. “There is not one person on this council that didn’t know we met twice a month when they ran for office.”
Conyers also said the issue, for him, was personal because he felt the initial proposal and council vote was contrived to occur when both he and another council member were absent at a meeting.
Bench, Whaley and Long voted in favor of the ordinance — Palmer and Conyers opposed.
Bench said if at the end of the year, “this has been detrimental because we have had emergency meetings or had to have phone votes that would have otherwise been avoided, we can go back to the original schedule.”