Monday, December 15, 2014

Refresher on Council & Committee Meetings

As your new Pelham Council goes through an “orientation,” I thought I would offer a refresher about Council and Committee meetings.

As a general rule, your Town Council meets at 6:30 PM on the first and third Mondays of each month in the Council Chambers in Town Hall. If one of our regular meetings falls on a holiday Monday (like Labour Day), we meet on the Tuesday.

Council is formal; it’s where we undertake the official business of the “Corporation of the Town of Pelham.” We advance the Town’s business through motions and a Procedural Bylaw provides order for our discussions. At Council, we make resolutions and enact bylaws – for budgeting, taxation, administration, and enforcement. We set policy, approve legal agreements, present awards, receive delegations, and act on official correspondence. We also receive minutes of the Town’s various committees and ratify the decisions of the Committee of the Whole and Policy & Priorities Committee.

COW and P&P:
Immediately following our Town Council meetings, we hold either a “Committee of the Whole” meeting (affectionately termed COW) or a “Policy & Priorities” Committee meeting (P&P).

The COW meetings are less formal and tend to be much more detailed oriented. We receive monthly updates from each of the Town’s departments – corporate services (including finance, IT, HR), public works (including roads, water/waste water, cemeteries, facilities), fire and bylaw services, planning and development services (including the building department), recreation, culture & wellness (including parks), and administration (including clerks and chief administrative officer). Councillors not only discuss the reports, but we also raise, discuss, and work on issues directly from the community or as recommended by staff.

The Ontario Municipal Act states that one of the roles of a local Council is to “to develop and evaluate the policies and programs of the municipality”; we specifically use the monthly Policy & Priorities meeting for this purpose. For example, over the last couple of years, Council has reviewed the Town’s human resources policies (including the establishment of a formal performance management system), financial policies (including a new procurement policy and bylaw), and are currently working our way through health and safety and public works policies. And, as other priorities arise, we can deal with them during this committee meeting.

Both Council and Committees require “quorum” – at least a majority (four) of seven members – to legally function and make decisions. Each member of Council, including the Mayor, gets one vote. If the majority of members at the meeting support a motion, it is “Approved” or “Carried.” If not, the motion is “Lost” or “Defeated.” In the case of a tie vote, the motion is defeated.

I hope that this information helps you to understand the workings of your Council. Next time I’ll write about Open and Closed meetings.