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Changes eyed for Paonia town board meetings

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Photo by Tamie Meck Paonia Mayor Pro Tempore David Bradford and trustee Chelsea Bookout share a light moment at the June 20 board meeting. The board is considering a proposal to start meetings earlier in the evening and to maintain a more formal timeline.

The Paonia Board of Trustees is considering changes to its meeting format.

The current board rules and procedures, printed on the back of every agenda, were adopted by the prior board early in 2015. Over the past months there has been discussion on how to improve meetings, which have been marked by controversy and arguments. They rarely ended before 10 p.m. and occasionally went past 11 p.m. Citizens whose items were on the agenda often waited through arguments and long discussions before being called to address the board.

A draft proposal was presented to trustees by Mayor Pro Tempore David Bradford at the June 25 meeting.

"Some people don't like to sit through our fascinating meetings," quipped Bradford, who was filling in for Mayor Charles Stewart (the first meeting he has missed since being elected in April 2014, noted Bradford), in proposing the changes.

The proposal recommends three major changes:

1. That meetings begin at 6:30 p.m. and end at 9:30 p.m.;

2. That the schedule of business be more in line with Colorado statute and Robert's Rules of Order;

3. That a code of conduct section be added to the rules and procedures.

The third change, if approved, would require that board members treat each other and the public in a civil and polite manner and comply with the town's recently adopted "Standards of Conduct." That would include limiting trustees to speaking two times on any one item, per Robert's Rules of Order.

The current rules of conduct and agenda format were passed by ordinance and are part of town code, which is uncommon, said town attorney Bo Nerlin. He suggested that the board consider repealing that section of code and passing subsequent changes by resolution, which is more simple than the process of passing ordinances.

Under the proposed changes, items not likely to require deliberation or public comment, such as roll call and approval of minutes and agenda, would be packaged under one "Consent Agenda" item. The change would save time by allowing all of the items to be passed in one motion. If a controversial item or one requiring discussion is placed with other consent items, trustees could have the power to remove them from the consent agenda or have them placed on the agenda as a separate item.

Trustee Chelsea Bookout said she's in favor of the consent agenda format. "I feel like we have a very capable staff that does a really good job at looking over all the applications and everything that comes into the office," said Bookout. "That's why they're here, and we should let them do their job and trust that they're doing it. And if there are issues I have no doubt that they will make us very aware of them."

The proposal also asks that unfinished and new business be conducted at the end of the meeting, rather than at the beginning, and new business items, currently addressed early on the agenda, would be addressed towards the end of the meeting. "That's how most meetings are scheduled under Robert Rules of Order," Bradford said.

The agenda would also include the times the items should be addressed, although it would allow for flexibility. "The intent of that is to allow the public some idea when their item would be on the agenda," said Bradford. The downside is that it limits discussion, but changes could always be made if the board approves, he added.

I encourage you to look at it, said town administrator Ken Knight, calling the proposal more in line with what he's seen in the other communities where he's worked.

Town administrator Ken Knight said the changes would reflect how most other communities run meetings. "I would add that I believe that most staff would much prefer that meetings be moved from 7 to 6:30," said Knight. "To have a normal adjournment time of 9:30 that can be extended by a function of the board would be greatly welcome by staff." Knight added that in putting together the agenda, he, the mayor and mayor pro tempore would work to ensure that the agenda that can be completed within the three-hour timeframe.

Department reports are scheduled toward the end of the current agenda format, and require staff to remain until they can address the board. "I think it's a good idea," said Police Chief Neil Ferguson.

At this point it's just for consideration, said Bradford. He urged trustees to "take it home and look it over," and bring their ideas to the next meeting. The board anticipates further discussion at the July 11 meeting, which begins at 7 p.m.

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North Fork
Paonia, Trustees
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