Westminster Council Decides Against More Meetings

October 30, 1991|By Daniel P. Clemens Jr. | Daniel P. Clemens Jr.,Staff writer

WESTMINSTER — There was bad news Monday for City Council fans whose appetites for meetings are not satiated by the current twice-monthly schedule.

There will be no shift to weekly meetings, the council decided.

Two weeks after first discussing the possibility of adding publicwork sessions during the week between regular meetings, the council said it would leave the current system intact.

Mayor W. Benjamin Brown had suggested adding the work sessions as a way the city's elected officials could more efficiently handle the burgeoning workload.

"(Westminster) is at a transitional point, where we're going to be unable to do the city's business the way we've traditionally done it," Brown said in arguing for the work sessions.

In addition to morework, the mayor cited a new council era marked by debate and discussion that had been absent with the previous council.

He characterized the former council's modus operandi as one of back-room decision-making.

"You need to replace it with something, and I think it should be replaced with public work sessions," he said.

The council concurred with Brown that the growing workload is a problem, but didn'tthink a formal schedule of additional meetings is the answer.

Since being elected to the council in May, said Kenneth A. Yowan, he's attended more than 60 meetings, including council sessions.

Yowan and other members said that the off week was important because it gives council members the opportunity to tend to their families and careers.

"(Council meetings) are not the only meetings we go to," Yowansaid. "It's nice to have a break occasionally."

However the council agreed to schedule additional meetings when there are three weeks between the last meeting of one month and the first meeting of the next month.

The council members also agreed to occasional special sessions when the workload demands. Yowan suggested having a daylong meeting every two or three months, depending on the workload.

Tied to the issue of adding work sessions had been the question of whether the salaries of the mayor and council members should be reviewed and possibly increased.

Brown suggested studying salaries in the eventthat elected officials would be called upon to attend more regularlyscheduled meetings.

But when the council declined to add work sessions, the mayor considered the salary question immaterial.

"In mymind, the question of the pay raise is moot," Brown said.

Still the council charged the mayor with studying the pay scales of other similarly sized municipalities in Maryland.

"We may find out that we're overpaid," quipped Councilman Stephen R. Chapin Sr.

The last pay raise for the city's elected officials came in 1985.

All salaries were doubled, with the council members' annual salaries increasingto $2,400, the council president's pay going to $3,000, and the mayor's compensation rising to $10,000.

The council cannot raise its own salary. A proposal to increase pay must be placed on the ballot asa referendum item during a city election.

One salary-related suggestion offered Monday was to consider regular cost-of-living increases for council members, like that received by city employees.

Another concern was that council members cannot take part in the city's pension plan, as can the mayor and city employees. The mayor said he also would study those concerns.

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