McCOOK, Nebraska -- Would residents attend county commissioners' meetings if they were scheduled in the evening? Would they attend meetings if commissioners met twice a month, rather than four times a month?
Would Tuesdays, or even Wednesdays, work better than Mondays?
Could the county save some money if the county board met just the second and fourth weeks of each month?
Red Willow County commissioners -- who schedule their regular meetings four times a month, on Monday mornings, in the courthouse in McCook, Nebraska -- want input from the public as they consider changing the frequency of their board meetings.
"We work for the people of this county," said commission chairman Earl McNutt, urging residents to contact commissioners with their comments, questions and suggestions.
For each of the past six to eight weeks, commissioners have had really light agendas, prompting them to think that maybe meeting twice a month, all day long rather than just during the morning, would make more sense for scheduling.
County Clerk Pauletta Gerver said during the board's meeting this morning that meeting twice a month may save the county money as well. Publishing meeting notices and then the minutes of meetings would be reduced from four times a month to twice a month, she said, and commissioner Steve Downer would have to travel to McCook from rural Bartley for meetings just twice a month. "Expense- and time-wise, meeting four times a month is wasteful, I feel," Gerver said, adding, "If 60 counties are making it work, I don't see why Red Willow County can't."
The Nebraska Association of County Officials directory indicates that 60 counties meet twice a month. Sixteen meet once a month, one meets three times a month and 16 meet four times a month. Red Willow County commissioners have met four times a month for as long as most everyone can remember.
Downer suggested maintaining the four-week schedule from May through October -- as commissioners discuss bids and budgets during that time -- but changing to a twice-a-month schedule the remaining six months.
County treasurer Marleen Garcia told commissioners that if they went to a twice-a-month schedule, they would need to schedule a special board of equalization meeting each time they meet to allow for her office or the assessor's office to present corrections and tax exemptions in a timely manner.
Special meetings during the off-weeks could be scheduled if they became necessary, Gerver said. Commissioners do not meet now on the fifth Monday of the month unless a special meeting is necessary.
McNutt said that meeting twice a month, on Mondays, would mean commissioners would not meet four times during 2011 because of holidays. In February, July, September and October, commissioners would meet only once a month.
McNutt said he was concerned that an inconsistent schedule would be confusing to the public, discouraging attendance even more than work-day Monday mornings.
McNutt said that meetings in the evening may be more convenient for constituents to attend, but they would require that Gerver, who is the board's secretary, and other elected courthouse officials on the agenda would have to return after regular courthouse hours.
McNutt said he wants to check with county attorney Paul Wood, who often has conflicting schedules on Mondays with district court, and would have conflicts on Tuesdays with county court.
McNutt said it's unusual to have the light schedules as commissioners have had the past two-three months. "It may just be the calm before the storm," he said.
"Before we do anything too drastic, let's table this and get some public input," McNutt said.
Commissioners will discuss the schedule again at their next Monday meeting, Dec. 27, at 9:15 a.m.
Contact McNutt at (308) 345-3692; Downer at (308) 692-3242; or Vesta Dack, who will be sworn in as District 3 commissioner Thursday, Jan. 6, at (308) 345-6818.
If commissioners make a change in their schedule, it won't take effect until meetings in February 2011.