NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The City Council on Tuesday rejected 7-2 a proposal to start its meetings an hour earlier.
City Councilor Wayne Wilkinson had raised the idea of meeting earlier as the council's meetings crept longer into the evening. With meetings regularly running past 9 and sometimes closer to 10, Wilkinson thought a 6 p.m. start rather than 7:30 would get the councilors and audience out earlier.
The General Government Committee had recommended a 6:30 start after hearing from councilors and the current and former city clerk. The clerks had expressed concern that the long meetings and late nights were exhausting everyone and issues coming up at the end of agendas were perhaps not being discussed as thoroughly.
Councilors also had noted residents who watched on television sometimes missed the mayor's report and councilor's concern that come at the end of the meeting.
But while there seemed to be some support, the motion failed to pass after a brief discussion during which councilors related how difficult it would be to meet an earlier start.
Councilor Benjamin Lamb said he would vote against it for both personal and professional reasons. His job in Pittsfield means he only has a short time to see his son when he gets home.
"Family is incredibly important to me ... This would eliminate two entire days a month I would see my child," he said. "That is a make or break to me."
Councilor Marie T. Harpin said she had come to the meeting not sure how to vote. Her own children were older but she said she realized how difficult it could be for people with young families or who have to travel for work.
Councilor Jason LaForest also agreed about "the importance of family time and to be able to go home for a few minutes at the end of the work day." And he also noted that committee meetings are sometimes held prior to council meetings and changing the time would preclude that.
"It does seem if we were to move to a 6:30 time, I would really strongly consider that we also look at speaking on agenda items during the agenda items and not at the beginning," said Councilor Joshua Moran, referring to a council rule change this year that limited public comment at meetings. He said an email from Joseph Smith had prompted his thoughts on it.
Council President Keith Bona said he's always liked the time because it was a benefit when his children were small and recalled how late City Councilor John Gwodz would rush in from his job at GE in Schenectady, N.Y.
But, he also acknowledged, "the meetings were much shorter then." He said he'd asked NBCTV to rebroadcast the meetings on the following Tuesday's at 6:30 p.m.
Councilor Rebbecca Cohen thought any change should take place in the next term since council members had run with the knowledge the meetings started at 7:30. Councilor Paul Hopkins, chairman of the General Government Committee, said the committee had definitely been influenced by people who had spoken but he was now taken by Cohen's comment.
The entire General Government Committee flipped to the negative. The only councilor joining Wilkinson in voting yeah was Eric Buddington.
While sympathetic with the difficulties some councilors might encounter, Buddington said he supportive of the change and was optimistic it would attract more public attendance. The ordinance change was defeated on roll call vote.
The council again postponed a matter related to a request from Holden Street condominium owners wanting free or reduced parking in the Center Street Parking Lot. Councilors had expected a report or clarification from the Traffic Commission, to which it had been referred nearly a year ago. They voted to formally request a clarification from the commission about that and the streets that were discussed for speeding.
But the councilors also postponed that order because they felt it was not clear how or if it affected the condo owners or the rationale for raising the rates because it was not accompanied by a letter of explanation. The motion to postpone also requested the commission provide a report addressing their questions.
"I think everything has been done and talked about," said Moran. "It's just getting us and them on the same page."
The council did approve fairly quickly several other traffic ordinances that created a no-parking zone on North Street near the intersection with Houghton and several amendments that inserted "bike lanes" into ordinances that giving the city authority over certain traffic zones, and a changing the end of the winter parking to April 15.
The council also approved the reappointment of Richard Lavigne as resident commissioner for the North Adams Housing Authority for a term to expire July 1, 2024, and the reappointment of Mary Ann Caproni as a registrar of voters for a term to expire April 1, 2022.
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