Bath councilors reject proposal for twice-monthly meetings

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BATH — After weighing the idea of holding two regular meetings a month, the City Council chose last week to stick with one.

The order to hold the regular meeting the first Wednesday of each month was part of the council’s Dec. 1 consent agenda. Consent agendas are comprised of routine matters that tend not to require debate.

But Councilor Sean Paulhus asked that the order be removed from the consent agenda and discussed on its own, to broach the idea of two regular monthly meetings.

When the council only meets once a month, he said, “it doesn’t always work … because you don’t get to talk and discuss issues quite as easily. I know many other towns and communities across the state that do at least two regular meetings.”

Councilor Andrew Winglass called the matter one of semantics, saying that while the council has its one regular monthly meeting, it can hold as many meetings as councilors desire.

City Solicitor Roger Therriault said the City Charter requires the council to establish a place and time for its regular meetings. But he noted that if another session is required in a given month, the council chairman can call a special meeting. The council also holds workshops for discussion without decision-making votes.

“I can remember … an era when the council met every Wednesday night, on and on forever,” Therriault said. “Fortunately things have changed over the years.”

He pointed out that the problem with designating a second regular monthly meeting is that the council would have to meet, even if it had no business to conduct.

Councilor David Sinclair said he agreed with Paulhus “that there’s at least enough business that we can be addressing, that we might want to consider having two regular meetings each month. … I think it would be good for us to actually agree, as a council, that we would meet more than once each month.”

Town Manager Bill Giroux said he has staff that would embrace two meetings a month, “because we have to do a lot of thinking ahead.”

He referred to ordinances that need two readings and contracts that need to be authorized by the council. But he reflected Therriault’s point, noting that the council can schedule a second monthly meeting without having to make it a mandated monthly occurrence.

Councilor James Omo said he has rarely seen meetings run past three hours, and that on occasion they have lasted only 15 minutes.

“I’m inclined to go along with what we’ve seen historically,” he said. “I don’t think anybody (has) outright said, ‘no, I’m not going to have a second meeting, because I have to go play golf’ or whatever it might be. It seems like we are here for the city, and when it’s needed, we step up to it.”

Councilors ultimately voted unanimously to continue with one monthly meeting.

Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.