Council considers three-month trial of bimonthly meetings

The Marshalltown City Council will likely try moving to bimonthly meetings for a three-month trial period.

The council discussed the proposal at its Monday night Committee of the Whole meeting, and its members gave city staff direction to draw up provisions to start the trial period beginning in June.

Mayor Tommy Thompson said during a meeting of the Mid-sized Cities League of Municipalities, roughly 2/3 of representatives from 10 or 12 states told him they use a bimonthly format. Those representatives said they have had no problems with the format.

Marla Grabenbauer, third ward council member, said she has some trepidation about the switch, so the trial period sounds like a good idea. However, she said, budget time will be the testament to whether holding the twice-a-month meetings will work.

“Most major decisions have been made,” she said.

Randy Wetmore, city administrator, said the council would still be able to hold special meetings, as it does now, to take care of any pressing business on off weeks. The 90-day trial period would allow the council to work out any kinks in the system and allow the council to adjust them before a formal switch.

“It gives us a short period to figure it out,” Wetmore said. “If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work.”

Al Hoop, fourth-ward council member, opposed the change, saying he believes the switch to be unnecessary.

Other members of the council echoed Grabenbauer’s sentiment, saying it would allow those who want to attend the school board meetings an opportunity to do so if council meetings are staggered from those meetings.

Joel Greer, second-ward council member, said, “I think it will save everybody some time.”

The only real point of contention was deciding which part of the two-part meeting to hold first. Since the meetings would be combined, the council must decide whether to hold its discussion first or vote on items first.

Curt Ward, city attorney, reminded the council that public notification laws still govern the items on which the council can vote.

“You have to tell people in advance what you are going to act on,” Ward said.

Bethany Wirin, at-large council member, suggested holding the voting portion of the meeting prior to the discussion part. That way, the public will know what time the council will take action.

The council would take action on the items covered during the discussion portion of the previous meeting.

Thompson said he spoke to the mayor of Cedar Falls, which holds bimonthly meetings, about whether such meetings restrict public input. He said they do not.

The council will vote whether to make the switch at a subsequent meeting.