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Co. commissioners consider switch to morning meetings

A decision to move Kitsap County commissioners’ twice-monthly business meetings to Monday mornings was postponed after a handful of county residents spoke in opposition of the change.

The commissioners decided to postpone a vote on moving regularly scheduled business meetings to an earlier time until a board meeting Feb. 27. If the change is made, the meeting March 12 would be the first to move to the daytime.

“The opportunities to add-ress (the county) in a public situation are very, very few,” said Jim Sommerhauser of Central Kitsap. “I think the turnout will be less if you move back to daytime meetings.

“The more government is open … the better government is,” said Olalla resident Mark Miller.

Meeting attendees offered a variety of suggestions, including moving the meeting to 5 p.m. on Mondays, Commissioner Charlotte Garrido said.

She said the idea to move the meetings came from the need to consolidate the amount of time county workers are on the clock. Since some county staff are required to be on hand to run commission meetings, Garrido said evening meetings stretch out already reduced employee work hours.

“We often need to have staffers on hand at the meeting,” she said. “Because we are running on such reduced hours at it is, evening meetings really stretch the schedule.”

The meetings were moved from the morning to a 7 p.m. start time in November 2007 in an effort to encourage more public participation. Garrido said that outside of public hearings on hot topics, there has been little change in meeting attendance.

“When the meetings were held during the day we had a decent crowd,” she said. “We thought we’d move the meetings back to that time.”

But it’s clear not everyone agrees.

“I understand the cost for the government,” Miller said. “But there is a cost for the public.”

Garrido said public hearings on matters expected to draw large crowds would still be scheduled for the evening.

Videos of the meetings are broadcast live on local access channel BKAT and posted on the county’s website and www.vimeo.com. If the change is made in meeting times, BKAT will broadcast the meetings live and repeat the broadcast at 7 p.m. on Mondays.

A plan to move public hearings that have a greater impact on specific areas of the county away from the county’s administration building in Port Orchard is still moving forward, Garrido said.  She said it should be a priority to find a location to hold meetings away from the usual location.

“There is no reason we couldn’t go to North Kitsap to hold meetings,” Garrido said. “As long as we are able to videotape the meetings so they can be broadcast online.”

The commissioners accepted public input regarding the proposed change in meeting time through Thursday. They plan to make a decision at their next regularly scheduled meeting on Feb. 27.

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