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City Council debates scheduling second meeting each month

It looks like Washington’s City Council will continue to have just one regularly scheduled meeting each month.

However, after some debate, the council tabled the issue until its next regular meeting.

During the council’s June 11 meeting, council member William Pitt broached the subject of the council having two regularly scheduled meetings each month, on the second and fourth Mondays. His suggestion drew mixed results.

Council members Virginia Finnerty and Richard Brooks rejected Pitt’s recommendation, as did Mayor Mac Hodges. Councilman Roland Wyman said he thought a second monthly meeting could be productive. Councilman Doug Mercer said it does not matter to him whether the council has one or two regularly scheduled meetings each month.

“There’s some nights we’re very fortunate; we get out of here before midnight. I’d like for this council to return to its second-meeting policy per month with regard to the amount of information, grants, et cetera that we’re receiving. I think we need to be a little bit better informed. We need to be better informed on the things that are going in in the city,” Pitt said. “There is nothing more distressing than to read about items that are happening in the city in the paper. … I’d like to know about them first-hand and not read about them in the paper.”

Pitt said if the city manager and mayor determine there are not enough items for the council to address in the second meeting, that meeting could be cancelled. Currently, if the council must conduct another meeting during a month, it must advertise that meeting by notifying the public and media. Having a second meeting each month would alleviate the city from having to post notifications about a called second meeting, Pitt noted.

“Well, I don’t really want to do it. I like the one (meeting) because it gives you more freedom is something comes up. I know in the first two years when we were doing two I had to move schedules all around for them. …I’m fine the way it is,” Hodges said.

“I would actually prefer seeing us go to twice a month. We’re actually seeing the potential for more activity in the city. I see our load increasing,” Wyman said.

Hodges suggested a second meeting every other month.

Finnerty said that when the council decided to have just one meeting a month, council members made it clear that if a second meeting is needed to address city business, then it would conducted a second meeting.

Pitt reminded the council and mayor that calling a second meeting requires public notification of that called meeting. “A second, regular meeting is more advantageous to us than saying, ‘I’ve got something I want to do and I don’t want to come to a second meeting.’ Folks, let’s remember the reason we’re here. We’re here to serve the public,” Pitt said.

Wyman said it would be better to have a regular second meeting, with the option to cancel it if it’s not needed.

“I like the way we’ve go it now. … I think we’re doing a good job with one meeting. I prefer to stay at one meeting,” Brooks said.

“The second meeting in many cases can be more an informational meeting. It gives us a time to digest information and come back at the next meeting and vote on it,” said Mercer, adding that sometimes the council receives pages and pages of information that needs to be reviewed by council members and city staff before the council acts on that information.

City Manager Bobby Roberson told the council there has been an increase in items coming before it for consideration and action.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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