Time stands still: Parkersburg council keeps meetings at 7:30 p.m.

Parkersburg council keeps meetings at 7:30 p.m.

Parkersburg council keeps meetings at 7:30 p.m.

PARKERSBURG — City Council meetings apparently will remain at 7:30 p.m. after three different starting times were rejected by one vote each.

Three other resolutions and seven ordinances passed during Tuesday’s meeting, including approval of the 2019-20 Community Development Block Grant and HOME budgets, raises for firefighters and the city surveyor and a 5 percent reduction in the fire fee, effective July 1.

Council President Mike Reynolds said he proposed moving council meetings up 90 minutes to a 6 p.m. start time to make more efficient use of time. If council meetings started earlier, committee meetings could take place immediately afterward, instead of before, when few people attend, he said.

“There’s no hour of dead time in between,” Reynolds said, citing the gap from the end of Tuesday’s 6 o’clock Urban Renewal Authority meeting and the start of the council meeting. “It would be a much more productive use of time.”

Last week, Reynolds said the meetings would also end earlier if there were no committees scheduled.

Some residents said the change would make attending meetings more difficult.

“The 6 p.m. timeline is not workable for working families,” Parkersburg resident Sue Ellen Waybright said, before asking council to consider a 6:30 or 7 p.m. start time.

Parkersburg resident Jennifer Bryant said the earlier start time would push council business “further into the dark” because meetings are no longer streamed live by the city and it would be difficult for the local television station to cover meetings during its 6 o’clock broadcast.

Councilman John Reed said earlier meetings could open them up to people who don’t attend now. He said some people have told him they could attend earlier meetings after work and perhaps student groups wouldn’t leave after being recognized at council meetings if they weren’t so late.

“I think after hearing all this, there’s no perfect time,” Reed said. “We just have to pick a time and give it a try.”

Councilman J.R. Carpenter called the suggestion of changing the time “ridiculous.

“I’m afraid when we all ran for office, we knew the timeframe we were running for,” he said.

Councilman Zach Stanley noted he was absent from the Urban Renewal meeting because he had other obligations at 6.

“People aren’t here at 6 o’clock because they’re still getting off work,” he said.

Stanley said he’s never heard a member of the public ask for the meetings to start earlier, though he “might have heard people on council complain.” Attendance at committee meetings is more about what is on the agenda than what time they’re held, he said.

“It really comes down to what we’re speaking about,” Stanley said.

Councilman Eric Barber acknowledged the difficulty some people would face getting to an earlier meeting.

“However, staying until 9 or 9:30 is also difficult,” he said.

Councilman Jeff Fox offered an amendment to make the start time 7 p.m. It failed by a 5-4 vote with Councilmen Dave McCrady and Bob Mercer, Barber and Fox voting in favor.

A 6:30 start was also rejected 5-4, with McCrady, Kuhl, Reed and Reynolds in support. The original 6 p.m. proposal was voted down, with those four also in the minority.

The meeting ended at 8:45 p.m., after an ordinance granting previously budgeted Fire Department raises of 25 cents an hour for those working 54-hour weeks and 34 cents an hour for those on 40-hour shifts passed unanimously on first reading. The fire fee reduction and a 13-cents-an-hour increase in the bonus for firefighters who have earned their EMT certification passed 9-0 on final reading.

In other business:

• A budget revision to fund a $5,000-a-year pay increase for the city surveyor passed 5-4 with Carpenter, Reed, Stanley and Reynolds opposed.

• Council unanimously approved a CDBG budget revision moving $20,000 from the YMCA of Parkersburg’s child care expansion to YMCA summer camp and after school program scholarships.

• Council voted 8-1, with Stanley opposed, to approve the final reading of a home rule ordinance prohibiting unsightly or unsafe storage of items like household appliances, indoor furniture, household furnishings, auto parts and shopping carts in yards, unenclosed porches, open garages or carports.

• The final readings of ordinances amending regulations dealing with central business district landscaping to match a broader change recently approved by council passed on votes of 7-2, with Carpenter and Fox opposed, and 9-0.