Merrickville-Wolford council will be changing the time of their meetings, at least until they are able to welcome the public back into the council chambers. The idea was first brought to council by Councillor Don Halpenny last year. He made the suggestion to move the meetings into the afternoon so that staff wouldn’t have to stay at the office after hours.
“If you can remember when we had people coming here, everybody that comes are not working anyway,” Councillor Halpenny noted. “They’re all retired.”
Although Councillor Halpenny’s original idea was to start the meetings at 4pm, Councillor Bob Foster suggested that they move their meetings to 2pm, to make sure they are wrapped up during the work day. “Especially with the budget deliberations coming up, we might want to start earlier to hammer it out,” he said.
The only council member who was opposed to the change in meeting time was Councillor Timothy Molloy. He remembers that, prior to amalgamation, Merrickville had their meetings at both 4pm and 7pm. They ended up changing all the meetings to 7pm, as they found that the afternoon meetings did not accommodate those who worked in Ottawa.
“What would be the circumstances if we changed those meetings to 2pm or 4pm, or whatever it is, on the people who are working in Ottawa and can’t make those meetings?” he asked. “My feeling is, even if there’s only one or two, that’s substantial, because you’re limiting a voter’s right to a council meeting based on time.”
Councillor Foster reminded Councillor Molloy that the change in time would only be in place until the requirements set out by the province due to the pandemic are lifted and residents are able to attend the meetings in person once again. “This is just an interim measure, to try afternoon meetings while COVID is still raging and people aren’t allowed in here anyway,” he said.
Mayor Struthers also mentioned that, at this point, a 2pm meeting is no different than a 7pm meeting, as recordings are uploaded to the website as soon as the meeting is over to ensure transparency. “In part, this is a nice gesture for our staff,” he said. “Whether we continue on afterwards, we can have that discussion once restrictions lift.”
The motion to move the council meetings to 2pm on the second and fourth Mondays of the month was passed in a recorded vote, with only Councillor Molloy voting against the change. Council meetings will continue to be recorded and posted on the municipal website directly after each meeting.