WHEELING - Mayor Andy McKenzie said Wheeling City Council soon may begin meeting earlier in the day - a move he and some council members believe will make it convenient for more residents to attend meetings.
The proposed change also would move regular meetings from the first and third Tuesdays of every month to the first and third Mondays. Meeting times, McKenzie said, would alternate between noon and 5:30 p.m., rather than the current 7 p.m.
Council would have to pass any such change by resolution. McKenzie said the city's Rules Committee would meet to discuss the proposal prior to any legislation being placed on council's agenda, but that meeting has yet to be scheduled.
Photo by Ian Hicks
Wheeling City Manager Robert Herron stands to deliver a report during City Council’s June 19 meeting as Councilman James Tiu and Councilwoman Gloria Delbrugge listen.
"Until that meeting the idea of the changes are just that ... if the days and times change, it would not take effect until after August," McKenzie said.
That means the new meeting schedule could begin around the same time council starts meeting in its new chambers in the former sheriff's tax office on the first floor of the City-County Building at 1500 Chapline St. The office swap began in March, and work to renovate the new council chambers is expected to wrap up in September.
In the meantime, council has been meeting in the building's second-floor courtroom, with the exception of a few meetings held this spring at schools around the city, including Wheeling Park and Wheeling Central Catholic high schools and The Linsly School.
At least three council members said they would support the proposed change, but Councilman Robert "Herk" Henry is not one of them. He has a part-time job and said his work schedule often would conflict with the new times.
Henry also doubts that resident attendance will improve as a result. He believes most people who show up to council meetings do so primarily when something on the agenda directly affects them - a trend he doesn't see changing.
"I don't think we're going to pick up more people. ... Sometimes they say change is a good thing, but I don't think this one is," he said.
However, Councilman-elect Ken Imer - who will be sworn into office by the time any vote on the mayor's plan would take place - said he's in favor of the change. He acknowledged the new times would be better for his own schedule, but he believes there are many people who feel the same way - particularly those with children who may be busy taking them to sports and other activities during evenings.
"I just think there's probably more people who have less things to do during the day versus the evening," said Imer.
Also in support of earlier meeting times is Councilman Don Atkinson. He said on a personal level, it makes no difference to him - he works steady nights - but he believes the lunch time meetings could draw some of the downtown work force. The 5:30 p.m. meetings right after the work day ends, he added, may appeal to people who want to attend but ultimately decide to stay home because they have two hours to kill.
"We're trying to see if we can get more people to come to council. ... I think it's a good thing, to try it," Atkinson said.
Councilman Eugene Fahey said during the meetings at the schools - which took place during the day - he noticed people attending whom he hadn't seen before. He believes the alternating times would mean that most residents, regardless of their schedules, could attend at least one out of the two meetings each month.
"I think it's a new, fresh idea. ... We just assume that everybody's off in the evenings, but it's just not true," Fahey said.
Councilwoman Gloria Delbrugge and Councilman-elect David Miller could not be reached Monday for comment.