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Council nixes plan to start meetings earlier

A push to move Port Orchard City Council meetings to an earlier time failed Monday as the council voted 4-2 against the measure.

First-term Councilmember Todd Cramer, who sponsored the time-change ordinance, said he thought it would be a shoo-in. After all, he pointed out, no other businesses he knows make the majority of their big decisions late at night.

In addition, Cramer said, he doubts Port Orchard citizens enjoy staying up until 10 p.m. or later just to observe council action.

“We’ve had them go until midnight,” he said. “It’s crazy.”

By moving council meetings to a new start-time of 6:30 p.m. — as opposed to the current 7:30 p.m. — Cramer hoped to make it possible for the meetings to wrap up before 9 p.m., with the majority of decisions being made before 8 p.m.

Currently, council meetings typically go until 10 p.m. However, meetings with controversial agendas or multiple public hearings can go even later than that. Monday’s meeting did not adjourn until nearly 11 p.m.

The majority of the council’s business — including three bid openings potentially worth more than $700,000 — was not voted on until after 9 p.m.

“No company does big-money deals at 8, 9 o’clock at night,” Cramer said.

Councilman John Clauson, who led the motion to deny the proposal, said there are other ways to make meetings end earlier. As an example, he suggested bumping up the number of council meetings per month to three from the current two.

“That would spread the load over more meetings so we wouldn’t have to be there as late,” Clauson said.

He said he personally voted against the measure for two reasons. For one, Clauson explained, it would create a hardship for Councilman Bob Geiger, who owns and operates a pharmacy on Bay Street. Secondly, with elections just around the corner, Clauson said he felt it would be more appropriate to discuss changes to operating procedures after potential changes to the council roster are made.

“I just thought the timing was bad,” he said.

A few residents who frequent council meetings expressed concerns an earlier meeting start time could actually make it more difficult for residents to attend meetings — particularly those who commute from neighboring counties.

However Cramer, who works in Seattle, said the community-wide benefits of an earlier start time outweigh the inconvenience of a few people having to leave work earlier twice a month.

“I work probably as far as anybody does and I can make time,” he said.

Ron Rider was the only other council member to vote in favor of the proposal.

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