Mayor proposes change to council meeting schedule

COVINGTON -- New Mayor Ronnie Johnston is proposing a change to the City Council's meeting schedule.

Johnston, who took office in January, is suggesting that the council meet twice per month, with one work session and one regular meeting. Currently, the council has two meetings per month, on the first and third Mondays, with an hour-long work session before each meeting. Typically, the same information that is discussed in the work session is restated for the record during the council meeting.

Including the work session, the meetings typically last about three hours. Johnston said he's looking to reduce that time by discussing specific details and getting the majority of questions answered during the proposed monthly work session, so the council's regular meeting two weeks later can be more efficient.

The work sessions would be aired on Covington's Public Education Channel, just as the council meetings are now. Johnston said the work session and council meeting would both include time for public comment.

The work session would give the council "the opportunity to really fully vent every single issue," Johnston said. "No more items would be allowed on the agenda for the meeting, then two week later, we would have the meeting and vote. I believe that would be plenty of time to vet the issues and get right down to business (at the regular meeting). Other cities our size are doing this process. The other system I believe ... seems to be a little cumbersome. I'd like to try this and if it's not any better, we'll go back to the other one."

A change in the council's meeting schedule requires a charter amendment.

Councilwoman Janet Goodman said she is concerned that the new procedure could create a problem for staff.

"I don't feel the staff should be shortchanged because we're not managing things well. I don't want them to have to rush stuff to us (to make the monthly agenda)," she said.

City Manager Steve Horton suggested a trial period before an amendment is approved. Johnston said he would defer to Horton's judgement on when to implement the new schedule.

In other news, the City Council will meet Wednesday at 5:30 at City Hall for a work session to discuss the following items : a compressed natural gas fueling facility; library to Eastside trail; a proposal related to management of the city's fleet; a land transfer to the Airport Authority; a pedestrian bridge over I-20; timeline for the fiscal year 2013 budget; a GEFA loan for the Elizabeth Street water project; and a senior discount on electric rates. An executive session to discuss land acquisition is also on the agenda.