Hours and hours of debate required for town to function?

Marathon meetings are becoming a trademark of Sylvan Lake’s current council.

Marathon meetings are becoming a trademark of Sylvan Lake’s current council.

Not once since the beginning of the year have councillors been able to finish their business without passing a motion to extend their meeting past three hours.

In fact the longest meeting, so far, continued until 1:01 a.m. That was on June 9th.  Considering they started their deliberations at 6 p.m., that’s a total of over seven hours debating the town’s business and making decisions.

Decisions, people like former Councillor Ken MacVicar would question were made with adequate thought.

He was one of those who, with years of municipal experience, consistently said he’d seen bad decisions rushed through during meetings that went late into the night. He was also one who supported starting earlier in the evening so that when the mind got muddled, debate had been completed.

While our current batch of elected representatives appear focused and on topic during these lengthy meetings, repetition does creep into arguments, particularly when one’s on the opposite side from most of the others.

We agree they’re also on a steep learning curve due to their inexperience. And they’ve undertaken a large list of projects, as witnessed by the quarterly reports presented at Monday night’s meeting.

Of the 14 council meetings held since the beginning of the year, nine have gone into the fifth hour, while the other five ended between 9 and 10 p.m.

Another interesting fact, found by scrutinizing the minutes, is that in 12 of the 14 meetings, councillors went in-camera (meeting behind closed doors) for periods ranging from 30 minutes to over an hour and a half.

In most cases they emerged and didn’t make any further motions other than to end their meeting. (They have to come out of camera and go back into a regular meeting to make motions Ñ of course by then there’s no one in the gallery anyway.)

The answer? More meetings? Not likely. Viewing the amount of work staff puts into preparing exhaustive reports for councillors, more meetings would probably tax them to the point that little was accomplished other than research and report writing.

Slowing down the amount of work? Not likely? Sylvan is a growing community with many issues and demands. All have to be addressed in a timely fashion, aging infrastructure replaced, plans proceeding to find new water sources, subdivisions to be planned and opened, recreation facilities to be built, and so much more.

Therefore, the only solution, to our learned mind, appears to be to encourage councillors to be prepared, succinct in their comments, and keep the meetings moving.