Crazy meeting times don
We had our doubts about the new meeting schedule set by the Morgan County Commissioners in January, and those doubts have only grown deeper.
For as long as anyone can recall, the commissioners met about twice a month at 9:30 a.m. on Thursdays or, later, Fridays. Starting in the mid-1990s, the meetings got ridiculously long, sometimes going on until 7 p.m., making it hard for anyone to stay for the whole thing.
Early this year, the new commission announced weekly Thursday meetings, which presumably would be shorter and more manageable. Trouble was, they alternated starting times between 9:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Commissioners Brenda Hutchinson and Stacy Dugan claimed the 4 p.m. meeting was so working people could attend. Of course, most of the working people we know are tired by the end of their day and are looking forward to going home and having supper, rather than heading straight on to a government meeting.
Soon, those late afternoon meetings were stretching into evening so the commissioners changed the post time to a forgettable 3:30 p.m. Last week's meeting went on for five hours, with discussion of serious topics like the hotel tax increase set for 6:45 p.m. Even the commissioners didn't get dinner, to the chagrin of Commissioner Tommy Swaim, who had warned against the afternoon sessions in the first place.
Unfortunately, the commissioners aren't the only ones with a cockeyed schedule. The Morgan County School Board and Bath Town Council also hold meetings at easily missed times. Last week, the school board discussed their budget at 6:30 p.m., but they have also held special meetings at 6 p.m. and meet part of the year at 7 p.m.
And the Bath council have taken to alternating their Tuesday meeting times between 6 p.m. and 8:30 a.m.
Citizens need a scorecard to even remember when local government meetings are being held these days. The fluctuating times are confusing and work against open government.
We think the public is better served by holding meetings at reasonable, consistent times. If an evening meeting is held, we suggest 7 p.m. so people can have a break from their work day, eat supper and get to the meeting on time.
Contrary to the party line, these changing times seem to be for the convenience of officials, not for the convenience of the public.