Havre Daily News
Havre City Council members and city officials on Monday heartily debated a change that would shift council meetings from twice a month to once monthly.
Members of the council's Ordinance Committee split 2-2 on a motion to bring the question before the full council. Council president and committee chair Rick Pierson said the discussion by the council will likely be held anyway. All that is needed is a motion by a council member.
The committee voted 3-1 on another issue, recommending that council members consider moving their meetings to 7 p.m.
The City Council now meets on the first and third Mondays of the month at 8 p.m.
The debate centered on whether one meeting a month would stifle the opportunity for local organizations to bring issues, such as grant applications that need City Council approval, before the council, and whether it would limit the public's ability to hear city business and participate.
Gerry Veis, who is not a member of the Ordinance Committee, had proposed the change to monthly meetings after he was sworn in as a new council member earlier this month. He said during Monday's meeting that a once-a-month schedule would still allow local groups to present issues to the council, and perhaps get them to do so in a more timely manner.
“I've been on enough boards ... to know what's effective, what's efficient,” Veis said. “People who want to do something effectively ... can get it done in a timely manner.”
If issues come up that need immediate attention, council members can request a meeting through the mayor's office, Veis said.
Veis, who has served on the Havre school board, said a change from two meetings to one a month has worked well for the school board and its members.
Pierson said that, at times, issues come up a few days before the council's second meeting of the month - issues that need approval before the end of the month.
“I still disagree about changing it from two meetings to one a month,” he said. Committee member Allen “Woody” Woodwick said he opposed the idea.
“Some things shouldn't wait a month,” he said. “Granted, some meetings are short, some aren't, but I don't think we should go three or four weeks” without meeting.
Committee member Terry Schend said he thinks one meeting a month is enough.
“The business at hand can be handled at that one meeting a month,” Schend said. At many meetings, “We just approve a few items and then we're done. It just seems like a waste of time.”
Committee member Pam Hillery said she was initially opposed to meeting once monthly, but the discussion Monday night led her to believe that the full council should consider the question.
Havre Mayor Bob Rice said he supports the idea. If it doesn't work, he said, the City Council can always return to meeting twice monthly. He said he was relying on the advice of city clerk Lowell Swenson, who worked as deputy city clerk for a decade before becoming clerk 15 years ago.
Swenson said he thinks one meeting a month would be more than sufficient to handle city business.
Resident Charlie Grant said a change would “tighten the slack” and make the city run more smoothly.