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New council revamps schedule

December 12 marked the last of a long series of weekly Monday night gatherings for Bowen's municipal council.

December 12 marked the last of a long series of weekly Monday night gatherings for Bowen's municipal council. When corporate officer Kathy Lalonde presented the 2012 meeting agenda, the list of dates proved to be half as long because the meetings will now be held only twice a month.

Monday was kept as the day for council meetings but councillors decided to alternate between holding them in the morning and the afternoon. To enable public engagement and get various committees and working groups under way, a town hall meeting was tentatively scheduled for January 14.

First, council weighed the different timing options for council meetings. Councillor Alison Morse cautioned that daytime meetings would mean that people who are working could not attend. She suggested to alternate the meetings to start in the daytime and after work and get public feedback about the new schedule.

Councillor Wolfgang Duntz said, "It is my experience from attending council meetings that there is hardly ever anyone there who I recognize to be a commuter. It depends more on the items on the agenda than on the time of day whether people are going to attend."

He thought the community would be better served by alert councillors during the daytime.

All councillors agreed to schedule the next two council meetings for January 9 at 9 a.m. and January 23 at 1 p.m.

Adelaar addressed the issue of volunteer involvement. "We have a number of different committees on the island, some are not very active, some are completely dead," he said. "From my discussions with council and members of the public, I understand that we can amalgamate some of the committees." Adelaar suggested to find out what committees should be active and recruit new members. He said, "I am hoping that we get lots of volunteers for the five or six committees that need special emphasis." As examples, he mentioned the ferry advisory committee and the advisory planning commission (ACP).

Adelaar added, "It is of real importance to form a finance committee to assist council in the next few months. We need to look at increasing revenue and decreasing cost. I look forward to having volunteers from the public assist council and staff." Adelaar also hopes to "reactivate the surplus lands working group and the affordable housing working group."

He said, "We want assistance from the public. We want to learn what problems they see and what solutions they see. We want Bowen residents to tell council what they like us to do. I hope we get this moving as quickly as possible and I look forward to receiving the volunteer list."

Duntz cautioned that council should be clear on the mandate and terms of reference of the individual committees before going to the public. He said, "I suggest we also have realistic time plans so we don't have volunteer burn-out."

Adelaar stated that he was interested in reducing the number of committees and hoped to receive feedback from the public. He said, "We need to ask what committees people would like to see and where they want to volunteer."

Councillor Cro Lucas offered the opinion that current committee members might provide some insight. He said, "For instance, we have had correspondence from the chair of the APC who has expressed the desire to discuss the committee's role and maybe the changing of the role."

Councillor Andrew Stone said that he has been approached by islanders who are interested in advancing affordable housing. He added, "I suggest that we get the process started soon."

Councillors agreed that a town hall meeting provided the best format for public engagement. "Early daytime on a weekday is not the best time for a town hall meeting," Duntz said. "If we address the issue of committee work, I expect quite a turnout including people who work off island." Even though council was in favour of holding council meetings in the morning and during the daytime, town hall meetings should be scheduled at a time when commuters would be able to attend, said Duntz who suggested choosing a Saturday. He added, "This may lead to people coming forward and could spark considerable interest."

Lucas said, "[The town hall meeting] should be an open forum where people can present their case whatever it is."

"I think we should keep it to committees," Adelaar said. "Which committees people would like to see and what committees should move forward."

During the month of January, council meetings will be held on Mondays, January 9, at 9 a.m. and January 23 at 1 p.m. And a town hall meeting about Bowen residents' involvement in committees and working groups is scheduled for January 14 from 9 to 11 a.m.

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