Columbus City Council meetings will start an hour earlier by the end of the summer.
The Council, which currently meets at 7 p.m. on the first and third Mondays of the month, will shift to a 6 p.m. start time beginning Monday, Aug. 7th. It comes after City Council rules were reviewed during the June 5th Committee of the Whole meeting and follows a May 22nd email Mayor Jim Bulkley sent to the City Council, City Administrator Tara Vasicek and City Attorney Neal Valorz suggesting a 5:30 p.m. start time.
“I believe that the 7:00 time was originally picked because we felt that it was best suited for citizens that wanted to attend our meeting,” Bulkley wrote in the email, noting that sister cities and other organizations have their meetings earlier in the day. “I think from the attendance we normally get at our meetings it is pretty obvious that the start time has nothing to do with attendance. If it’s a ‘hot-button’ topic, people will come.”
During the Committee of the Whole meeting, the mayor said the initial suggested 5:30 p.m. start was about attempting to make things easier on staff, who often finish their work hours at 5 p.m. But he acknowledged a 5:30 p.m. start could be difficult for members of the City Council and then suggested the Committee of the Whole consider recommending a 6 p.m. start time as a middle ground.
The Committee, which is made up of the City Council, unanimously approved 7-0 (Council member Hope Freshour was not in attendance) recommending City Council modify its rules at its first meeting in July (the City Council rules call for the body to review its rules each July following an election).
Valorz also reminded committee members that the City Council would also have to pass an ordinance amending the City Code which outlines the start time of City Council meetings. Ordinances of a general or permanent nature shall be read by title on three different days unless three-fourths of the city council or village board of trustees vote to suspend this requirement, according to the Nebraska Legislature. There can be exceptions to this rule, though Council members in attendance June 5th indicated they were OK with the ordinance being read at the June 20th, July 5th and July 18th meetings before taking effect.
The Council will begin having meetings in the new Columbus Community Building on July 5th. A public open house is set to take place on July 8th. Details will be announced in the near future.
The 6 p.m. start for City Council meetings will tentatively take effect with the Aug. 7th meeting.