MOUNT CARMEL — An ordinance approved on first reading last week would establish a regular monthly Board of Mayor and Aldermen workshop that would help members “iron out” issues two weeks before the regular monthly meeting.
The BMA currently meets the fourth Thursday of each month at 6:30 p.m., and anyone familiar with Mount Carmel government knows those meetings can sometimes be a bit heated and/or contentious.
Vice Mayor Jennifer Williams told the BMA during Thursday’s meeting that the workshops proposed for the second Thursday of each month would give the board an opportunity to resolve issues before they come up for a vote.
Alderman Pat Stilwell asked why the workshop had to be on Thursday. Williams said city committees often meet the second Monday of the month, and the Planning Commission meets the second Tuesday.
“I like the fact that it’s a couple of weeks before the regular meeting, and that gives (the city manager) time get things ready for the regular meeting,” Williams said. “That gives him time to get the agenda put together. I think if we did it a week before (the BMA meeting), it wouldn’t give him enough time — for us to maybe review some things before the meeting.”
Alderman Carl Wolfe also spoke in favor of the proposed ordinance and noted that past workshops have been productive.
“When we had that last workshop, I like it,” Wolfe said. “A lot of people don’t like it, but I think it helps keep us out of the major news. We can argue among ourselves. It’s a good discussion. We don’t vote on nothing. I think it really helps us. I know Kingsport does it quite regular, and I’d like to see us continue to do it.”
Other board members were quick to point out that the workshops will be advertised and are open to the public and the media.
The first reading of the workshop ordinance was approved 4-1, with the only no vote cast by Alderman Steven McLain.
McLain told the BMA he believes the extra discussion would be good, but the proposed 5:30 p.m. workshop start time “does not work good for the working man.” He said he doesn’t get off work until 6:30.
City Manager Mike Housewright noted that the board can amend the start time of the workshops when it approves the second and final reading of the ordinance, which will be on the agenda for the Oct. 24 meeting.
One purpose of the workshops would be to establish the next BMA meeting agenda.
McLain asked if board members would still be able to add items to the agenda after the workshop is held each month.
City Attorney John Pevy replied, “Any board member has the authority to add items to the agenda. We’ve been doing that in the past.”
Board members will be paid for an extra meeting each month, and McLain was also concerned about the additional cost. The mayor gets $200 per meeting and aldermen get $50, and the overall cost of the extra monthly meeting is projected at $6,000.
“I understand that,” Williams said, “but I still think it will help us resolve some things. Not that we’re trying to do anything against the Sunshine Law. Anyone can attend the meetings. But at least we can look at things and discuss them and get a better chance to iron out (differences).”