The Loxahatchee Groves Town Council agreed last week to switch to two meetings per month on a Tuesday at 7 p.m., followed by an additional meeting on Wednesday to complete the agenda, along with a public input meeting at 6 p.m. on Tuesday.
Councilwoman Phillis Maniglia cited meetings that typically go to 1 a.m. since the council took on the roles of the Local Planning Agency and the Loxahatchee Groves Water Control District Board of Supervisors.
“I would like to split these meetings,” Maniglia said during council member comments toward the end of the marathon Aug. 7 meeting.
Maniglia actually made her comments after 1 a.m. on Aug. 8. “This is crazy. We used to have two meetings,” she said. “I would like to put the LPA and the water control district on one day and the town council another. These folks have something to say, but it’s a quarter after one. This is unacceptable.”
She asked other council members about a public question-and-answer period at 6 p.m.
“That’s where the issues are that really affect these folks,” Maniglia said, and made a motion to go to two meetings a month, with a question-and-answer period for the public at 6 p.m. Councilman David DeMarois seconded the motion.
Vice Mayor Todd McLendon said he had brought up the idea before of going until 10:30 p.m., and if they did not finish the agenda, to continue the following night.
“That way, we only have the one agenda that staff has to prepare,” McLendon said, pointing out that having a meeting every two weeks may interfere with council members’ plans.
But Maniglia said that every meeting would become drawn out.
“It’s going to happen every single meeting, so why don’t we put the two meetings back-to-back and split them?” she said. “These guys will all change their plans, so they can come to the meeting. They’ll sit through the evening, and then at 10:30 p.m., they’ll be told to go home and come back the next night.”
DeMarois suggested meetings on the second and fourth Tuesdays, as it was previously, but McLendon objected.
Maniglia said council members could still go on vacation, and the council could meet with four members.
“We’ll fill in for you,” she said. “We’re not all going on vacation at the same time, and by the way, I never go on vacation, so you can guarantee I’ll be here.”
McLendon asked Maniglia if she was suggesting meeting on Tuesday and coming back the following night, and Maniglia said that was her idea.
“The water control district used to be on another night,” she said. “I have no problem with one meeting being on a Tuesday, and another being on a Wednesday. At least everybody knows what’s going on. It’s quarter after one and these people are here. It’s not fair.”
McLendon said what he was proposing was a Tuesday and a Wednesday with one agenda and one public notice.
“I don’t know if you’ve seen how much money we spend on public notices,” he said. “It’s ridiculous.”
Mayor Dave Browning added that two meetings a month also increases the cost of the legal staff, but Maniglia said she felt that two meetings a month is more efficient.
“This is what we have now,” she said. “We have the water district, and we have the town. Get the money from the water district to have the second meeting.”
McLendon asked if they could try two meetings back-to-back with one agenda, and Browning said that during the early years of the town, it had two meetings a month.
“Many times, most of the time, they went past midnight, both of them, because no matter what you have, they tend to fill up,” Browning said. “People talk longer, and we will still be here at eleven o’clock at night if we have two meetings a month.”
Browning added that one council member refused to stay after 10:30 p.m., and the council wound up rolling over items to the next meeting, and action was delayed.
“I think very soon, we’re not going to need the time with the water control board and the LPA,” he said, adding that a second meeting could be in the form of a workshop to address LPA and LGWCD issues. “I’m not going to be for two regular meetings a month.”
Councilwoman Joyce Batcheler asked if the council could continue having one meeting a month and see if things settled down.
Browning called for a vote on the motion, and council members did not respond, so Maniglia retracted her motion and DeMarois withdrew his second. “Obviously, you guys are not voting on it, so let’s talk about what works, because this does not work,” she said.
Browning called for public comment, and former Councilman Ron Jarriel said back-to-back meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday seemed like a good idea because it’s beneficial to residents and less costly to the town because there is only one agenda.
Jarriel suggested having the council meeting on Tuesday and the LPA and LGWCD on Wednesday, and Browning suggested the reverse, because the council often has to validate LPA and LGWCD recommendations.
Maniglia made another motion to have the LPA and the council meetings on Tuesday, with a public input question-and-answer session at 6 p.m., and the water control meeting on Wednesday, which carried 4-1 with Browning opposed.