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Frequency of Town Council meetings reduced

Sarah Harrington

(1/22) With less and less agenda items on their plate, the Emmitsburg Board of Commissioners voted to reduce the frequency of their regularly scheduled town council meetings from twice a month to once a month. In this decision, Emmitsburg joins Carroll Valley, Fairfield, and Taneytown. Thurmont’s town council meetings take place once a week.

According to the Emmitsburg Town Charter, Commissioners are required by the town charter to hold only one meeting a month. For years, the commissioners met publicly on a Monday once during the course of a month. They would meet privately to discuss the agenda for upcoming meetings whether it be individually, in small groups, or as a whole.

Current Town Manager Dave Haller said when he first took the position of Town Manager; he began to prepare agenda packets for the commissioners to ensure they where up to date. To accomplish this, Haller said he would walk the commissioners through the agenda items, though the commissioners were not at liberty to discuss the agenda items or vote on them.

Unfortunately, the open meetings act required all meetings, except those that dealt with personnel matters or other delicate concerns, to be open to the public. This would include agenda meetings to provide the opportunity for the public to have their items added to the agenda.. According to former town commissioner Ted Brennan, "Commissioners were not allowed to gather in a private meeting to discuss the town’s business. We were told that meant talking in the office or across the hedge about votes was a no no." All meetings that where business related had to be announced and open to the public.

In 2004, in the heat of the contentious debate over annexation and development, the number of agenda items grew in leaps and bounds causing town meetings to run routinely late into night. To help alleviate the situation Mayor Jim Hoover felt that the agenda meetings should be recast as formal town meetings, which resulted in the commissioners holding meetings twice a month. While the town staff is required to be at the meetings, the additional 11 town council meetings costs the town approximately $5,000 per year.

While the commissioners have decided to reduce their public meetings to once a month, they did leave the door open for additional public meetings if and when they are needed.

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