By T.J. Pyette
Havre Mayor Bob Rice would like to see the regular City Council meetings changed from 8 p.m. to 7 p.m.
At a recent City Council meeting, Rice asked council members to consider changing the council's regular meeting time because he said he thinks "it's a waste of time to go home after work at 5 and sit around in a suit and tie" for three hours until the meeting starts at 8.
The meeting day, the first and third Monday of the month, should remain the same, Rice said.
In response to the mayor's request, members of the council's ordinance committee met Tuesday night to discuss making a recommendation to change the council's meeting time, which has been in effect since 1924.
Rice was out of town and unable to attend the meeting, but City Clerk Lowell Swenson spoke on Rice's behalf.
Swenson told the council that changing the meeting time to 7 p.m. would make it more convenient. He said he agrees with Rice and doesn't like going home at 5 and waiting until the meeting at 8.
"It pretty much kills the whole evening," Swenson said. He presented the committee members with an informal survey of Montana's towns and cities by the Montana Municipal Insurance Association. Havre's city council is one of five that meet at 8 p.m. A total of 70 out of the 114 cities and towns surveyed meet at 7 p.m., while 31 meet at 7:30.
City public works director Dave Peterson told the committee he would support the meeting time change, especially during the summer.
"At least if we held the meetings at 7, we'd still have part of the evening left when it's over," Peterson said.
Committee member Doug Larson said he likes the 8 p.m. meeting time because it allows plenty of time for the various council committees to convene prior to the regular meeting.
"If we moved the meetings to 7, I'm concerned that the committee meetings would be scheduled on other nights of the week," Larson said.
He also said he thinks council members might be tempted to call committee meetings right after the regular meeting, which wouldn't give the public adequate notice.
Council member Rick Pierson said he likes the meetings at 8 because it fits better with his family schedule and he can spend time with his four children in the evening when he gets off work, before he has to go to the meeting.
Pierson said it wouldn't really bother him if the meetings were to start at 7, but said he wouldn't make a motion to change it.
"I'll be here no matter what time the meeting is, as long as it's not scheduled during my work hours," Pierson added.
Committee member Gary Schubert said he'd personally rather see the meetings held at 7.
Emily Mayer said she likes the 8 p.m. meeting time because it allows her time in the evening to participate in other community activities relating to tourism, particularly in the summer when she gives tours of Havre Beneath the Streets and Fort Assinniboine.
About the issue of community attendance at the meetings, Mayer said she doesn't think having the meeting at 7 will draw any more city residents than usually attend the 8 p.m. meetings.
"I don't think the people really care when we meet, as long as we meet and do our jobs," she said.
"If they have a burning issue they want to talk about, they'll show up no matter what time the meeting is," Mayer added.
In the end, the committee approved a motion by Larson to move the issue to the full City Council.
"This involves everyone," Larson said.
Pierson spoke to Larson's motion and said, "We should put this out to the public and the rest of the council before we make a decision."
The council will meet to discuss the issue further directly following the next regular City Council meeting on Feb. 3.
Mayer said city residents should either attend the discussion or contact their City Council members if they have an opinion on changing the meeting time. Council members' phone numbers are listed on the city's new Web site at www.ci.havre.mt.us.