Commission plans night meetings to gauge turnout

Posted 11/8/17

By ED HOWELL

Daily Mountain Eagle

The Walker County Commission on Monday voted to hold a night meeting in January and will likely set three more night meetings for next year to test the …

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Commission plans night meetings to gauge turnout

Posted

By ED HOWELL

Daily Mountain Eagle

The Walker County Commission on Monday voted to hold a night meeting in January and will likely set three more night meetings for next year to test the public’s interest.

The commission also voted to cancel the Monday, Nov. 20, meeting as it will fall on Thanksgiving week. The meeting on Thanksgiving week has traditionally been cancelled in the past. The next meeting will be Monday, Dec. 4.

County administrator Cheryl Ganey said some people have discussed wanting to have meetings in the evening. District 2 Commissioner Jeff Burrough said people have approached him in the past about the idea.

Currently the commission holds its meetings at 9:30 a.m. on the first and third Mondays of the month.

“I think it is something all of us are OK to entertain,” and that details would only need to be worked out. He felt it would be good to open the commission meetings to those who work in the daytime and who can only attend in the evenings.

District 1 Commissioner Keith Davis said he understood what Burrough was saying and suggested a meeting at 5:30 p.m. or 6 p.m. so citizens can get off work for a meeting. He said the effort would also show the commission to be transparent.

“I’ve talked to other counties that do it and they say they have about the same participation in the morning as they do in the evening,” Davis said. “That may very well be, but it still gives the opportunity to attend.” 

District 3 Commissioner Ralph Williams agreed, saying the commission could at least hold night meetings on a limited trial basis. If more participate, night meetings could be scheduled more regularly.

“I think once a quarter would be a good trial to start,” Davis said, suggesting one early in 2018.

District 4 Commissioner Steven Aderholt said the idea was one of the most often heard suggestions and complaints about from the public, as many don’t feel they have access to the meetings.

“I think it would be a really good thing to show citizens we want to be as transparent as possible and give everybody the ability to come and participate and speak and be here when we make decisions,” he said.

He asked if night meetings would be an extra meeting or if it would be a rescheduled regular meeting. Williams said he felt it would be the latter.

Ganey suggested the second meeting in January be an evening meeting. Davis noted that would be Martin Luther King’s Birthday, so it would be better to set it for the next night, Tuesday, Jan. 16. Aderholt said with some working in Birmingham, 6 p.m. might be a more suitable time, which commissioners voted upon.

Trying to decide whether to schedule the evening meetings on a case-by-case basis or if one resolution would cover the whole year, Chairman Jerry Bishop said he felt more than one meeting would be needed to try out the idea. Davis said a resolution could be passed in December to set the rest of the schedule to try four meetings next year to test the response.

In other action, the commission: 

•approved a $2,000 grant for the Sheriff’s Department from the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) for overtime enforcement work on alcohol laws. District 3 Commissioner Ralph Williams, whose son handles paperwork on ADECA grants for the department, abstained from voting and from joining the discussion.

•held an executive session to discuss a pending lawsuit. After nearly an hour, at the recommendation of county attorney Richard Fikes, the commission voted to authorize the chairman to negotiate a possible settlement of the suit just discussed. Fikes declined to identify the suit, only saying that it was an older matter that has been pending for some time.