• Pre-meeting ‘work sessions’ get new schedule, format – still start at 5
BROOKINGS – Brookings City Council meetings will be starting at 6 p.m. on the dot from this point forward, and councilors should start their sessions fresher and even more eager to tackle city business than they have been in the past.
That’s because, starting with this week’s session, the council has changed its meeting format so that the traditional “work session” no longer precedes the regular semi-monthly assembly.
As always, council meetings will be scheduled for a 6 p.m. start on the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month.
But the informal work session – what has been a 5 p.m. “pre-meeting meeting” – is being eliminated. It will be replaced by a standalone study session on the third Tuesday of each month; like its predecessor, it will begin at 5 p.m.
The purpose of the study session is for educational information on previously determined issues, and no council action will be taken, said City Clerk Shari Thornes. The new format will allow council members and staff to hold in-depth discussions on various issues.
“I see it as a time when we can discuss city policy and perhaps do some strategic planning as well,” said Councilor John Kubal. “We can look at things three, four or five years down the road.”
The third-Tuesday study sessions will include no public hearings, and there will be no comment by the public, except at the councilors’ specific invitation. Even then, citizen input will be limited to the topic at hand, and specifically for purposes of council education.
The backgrounder sessions have developed over councilors’ repeated comments that they’d like to learn more about various city departments and their functions – a detailed look at the police department or health system, for example. And they’d like to discuss some issues at length; discussions during regular council sessions are brief, often hurried along by “the next item on the agenda.”
As they discussed the separate-evening study plan, Mayor Tim Reed and council agreed they’d like to stay within the one-hour limit they’ve had over the past year for work sessions, but Reed noted there will be no specified time limit – an especially detailed presentation or discussion could run longer.
It is expected the study sessions will provide sufficient background for the council to make decisions and set policy direction for city staff, Thornes said.
If the council wishes to take action on any of the matters raised in a study session, the items can scheduled for formal discussion, a public hearing or a vote during one of the regular council meetings.
The first study session will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 18, in the Community Room in the Brookings City & County Government Center. The councilors feel that a smaller room, with an informal, round-table arrangement, will produce freer, livelier discussion.
As in the past, all council meetings and study sessions will be televised, and all are open to the public.