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Changes coming on Port Orchard council

Port Orchard Mayor Lary Coppola said during his campaign he wanted to streamline city processes and shorten meetings, and with the first city council meeting under his leadership set for this week, the changes are already on the horizon.

In its first meeting of the year, the council will discuss making it the last to be held on a Monday and also reduce the number of outside committee meetings needed.

When the council meets Monday night, it will vote on two council reorganizations — the first moving regular meetings to Tuesday evening beginning Jan. 29, and the second reducing the number of council committees from 10 to four.

“We’ve got council members going to meetings after meeting,” Coppola said. “A lot of the committees stuff is duplication. Nobody on their deathbed said they wished they spent more time at a meeting.”

He also noted that discussion topics among the 10 committees often overlapped.

“If we can eliminate the amount of time we’re spending on duplicate effort, we’re all going to be better off,” Coppola said.

Incoming City Councilman Fred Olin noted that, if needed, the council could establish temporary committees for specific projects.

“I think if there is a need, we form an ad hoc committee,” he said. “If we have something really big coming up in utilities, then we form a committee of three or less, for a set period of time.”

Veteran Councilwoman Carolyn Powers was not as eager to abolish the system entirely, so a compromise was struck, establishing four committees — finance, parks and public properties, tourism and utilities.

The remaining items will be discussed at regular study sessions involving the entire council.

Councilman Fred Chang noted that in the previous structure, the council often sent the committee back with more questions. In the new setup, many topics will be discussed as a group.

“Why not have the full council discuss it?” Chang asked. “Many issues could be decided if we had the whole council to discuss it.”

Coppola asked the council to consider moving the twice-monthly council meetings to another night, such as Wednesday when other area cities meet. Ultimately the council directed its staff to draft an ordinance changing meeting nights to Tuesdays.

The shift opens up residents and council members to meetings of the Kitsap County commissioners, which moved to Monday evenings earlier this year.

“There are going to be times when we conflict, and we want our citizens to be able to attend both,” Coppola said.

He is also hoping to change the structure of council meetings, moving public comment times to the beginning.

“We want the citizens to be the first ones to get their say,” Coppola said.

With the possibility of a hearing examiner, the time-consuming task of public hearings on annexation and property proposals will be lifted off the council.

“If you get a hearing examiner tou could get 30 percent of the council’s time back overnight,” Councilman John Clauson said at the retreat.

Coppola hopes eventually the meetings will end by 8:30 p.m.

The meetings are scheduled to end at 10 p.m., and are extended by council vote. In the last year with a number of annexation proposals and lengthy deliberations over the Downtown Overlay District, council had meetings that extended as late as midnight.

The Port Orchard City Council meets at 7 p.m. on Monday at the Robert G. Geiger Council Chambers in City Hall, 216 Prospect Ave.

For an agenda or more information, visit www.cityofportorchard.us and click on “Agendas.”

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