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North Adams Council Considering Earlier Start Time

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The City Council may start its meetings an hour earlier, which may be a relief for residents who prefer an early bedtime. 
The council postponed action on the change Tuesday because two councilors were absent and the minutes of the General Government Committee meeting that discussed weren't ready. 
Still, Councilor Wayne Wilkinson, who suggested the time change, was ready to vote and became the only nay on postponing action.
"We have a very robust mayor who has been putting more and more stuff on the agenda," Wilkinson explained at the General Government meeting on March 11. "It's amazing how many people watch the City Council meetings on television ... the worst complaint I hear about ... is that they don't get to the end of the show."
Council meetings have frequently run past 9 p.m. and more than a few have neared 10 p.m. Even fairly light agendas have generated discussions that some councilors have urged be saved for committee meetings.   
Wilkinson has asked that the council considering beginning as early as 6 p.m., which would mean even lengthy meetings would likely end by 9 p.m.
Committee members Joshua Moran and Jason LaForest were not averse to the idea, but were concerned that some councilors who have to travel for work could not make an earlier meeting. Or that it would interfere with dinner hour. 
But both the current and former city clerk attended the committee meeting in support of the idea. 
"I've had the same conversations with people: it runs too late," Marilyn Gomeau, the former clerk said. "I've heard from the gallery but it's the same three or four people. If you moved it earlier you could get more people attending."
Besides, she said, "in today's society, there is no dinner hour."
She and City Clerk Debra Pedercini both said there was a tendency to rush through the agenda at the end of the meetings because both councilors and audience seem to get tired. 
"When it gets late everybody shuts down, including the clerk," Gomeau said. "I think that little bit earlier might make a difference."
Wilkinson said the Planning Board, on which he had served, started with a time of 7:30 p.m. but changed it to 6 p.m. 
"It worked out very, very good," he said. "I don't know any other committee meetings that start at 7:30 p.m. ... It's always been a tradition for the council but maybe it's time to modernize."
Their colleagues in Pittsfield also have been struggling with lengthy meetings that often go for three to four hours. This year, North Adams' council rules were changed to limit citizens' remarks to the beginning and end of the meeting, which may have shaved a little time. But much of the duration is comprised of council debate.
"I think we want to do the committee work during the meeting and that tends to make them run long," Moran said at the committee meeting. "Even if they didn't warrant a ton of discussion."
He supported trying a 6:30 or 7 p.m. start. "It's our opportunity to see if we can get more public input," Moran said.
On Tuesday, Wilkinson said he would try to amend the order from the original 6:00 p.m. to the committee's recommended 6:30 if the question was to move forward.  
"There was quite a bit of discussion, I thought it was all very positive," he told the councilors in briefing them on Tuesday. "The final consensus was a three-to-nothing vote for the moving the time for council to 6:30."
The council postponed the order to the next meeting. The chairman of the General Government Committee, Paul Hopkins, and Rebbecca Cohen were absent.

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Edge, MCLA Men Earn MASCAC Shutout

WORCESTER, Mass. -- Mount Greylock Regional School graduate Sam Edge made four saves Saturday to earn a shutout as the MCLA men's soccer team earned its first MASCAC win of the season, 1-0, at Worcester State.
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