Castlegar city council has made a decision to switch up the format it uses for committee meetings.
Council has been utilizing separate committee meetings for each of its committees — Transportation and Civic Works, Planning and Development, Finance and Corporate Services, Public Safety, Community Wellness and Social Services, Cultural and Civic Pride and Green and Technology.
This structure required councillors to sit at meetings on various nights of the week and varying times. Each councillor sits on several committees.
The new structure is referred to as “Committee of the Whole”. Basically, it means that all of the committees meet together at the same time. It is designed to be a less formal forum for discussing concerns. The public is welcome to attend.
Almost all medium-sized municipalities in the province use this method including Grand Forks, Kimberly, Revelstoke, Trail, Nelson, Williams Lake, Summerland and Terrace.
The new format addresses two issues — difficulty in scheduling for council and staff and lack of discussion by the full council before items are brought forward for a vote.
Councillors will continue to be responsible for the committees that are already in their portfolios — fielding concerns from the public, bringing forward related items to the full council and meeting with staff.
The schedule will likely be tweaked as council works out the bugs of the new system, but for now Committee of the Whole Meetings will take place on the first and third Mondays of the month at 1:30 p.m. This will be followed by in-camera council meetings when required. Council will then adjourn and come back together at 7 p.m. for the regular council meeting.
Several councillors felt strongly that the new format will allow for more open and full discussion.
“This is the one way we can allow full dialogue to happen,” said Coun. Deb McIntosh. “People can see all of the discussion that happens … how we got there.”
Coun. Sue Heaton-Shertibitoff appreciated that it will give councillors more time to think about and research upcoming proposals.
CAO Chris Barlow said that the change will also save the city money by reducing staff time required to prepared agendas and attend meetings. He also said that the change will allow staff to prepare more detailed agendas, since they will only be preparing one agenda every two weeks instead of one every few days.
Coun. Bruno Tassone wasn’t sure if the timing was right with an election coming up, but Coun. Arry Dhillon and Coun. Florio Vassiiakkais thought that made it a good time to get it done. They felt that having a more set schedule would make life easier for the next council and perhaps encourage more candidates to come forward because they will have a clearer picture about what will be expected.
The city’s current council bylaws already include all the provisions necessary for the Committee of the Whole structure.
The first Committee of the Whole meeting will take place August 13.