T.F. council tired of staying up late

Changes aim to make meetings more efficient


TINTON FALLS — Citing rushed sessions and late nights, the Borough Council has decided to restructure its meetings.

The council agreed at the Oct. 6 workshop meeting that the current format, which regularly runs past 10 p.m., is not working.

Currently, the council meets on the first and third Tuesdays of each month. The public session starts at 7:30 p.m. and is followed by a workshop meeting and an executive session if necessary.

Borough Attorney Brian M. Nelson suggested in a memo to council that the executive session be moved to the beginning of the meeting.

“I have a somewhat legal concern with executive sessions taking place at the end of the meetings rather than the beginning,” Nelson said. “That way, if there are items that the council needs to take action on, may be discussed in the executive session, and take action during the public session so it’s really fresh in everyone’s minds.

“There are certain decisions you’re going to make as council that I don’t think you want to make late in the evening when people are looking to get out,” he added.

Nelson suggested that the executive sessions begin at least one hour before the public session.

Council members were in agreement.

“I like the idea of the executive sessions early because by the time we get into executive session, everyone’s exhausted, and you’re asking us to decide on things and we’ve been here for six, seven hours,” council President Duane Morrill said.

“I tend to agree with the idea of having the executive session before the meeting,” Councilman Andrew Mayer concurred.

The council will regularly meet for executive session at 6:30 p.m. and, depending on the agenda, may meet earlier at times.

“If you know you have something that is super long, then you can schedule it at 6 [p.m.],” Morrill said.

Council members also agreed to change the order of business for their two monthly meetings. The council will restructure the schedule to have the first meeting of the month be a workshop and the second meeting be the meeting at which council conducts business.

“Every municipality I’ve done work with has a workshop meeting at the beginning of the month, which basically lays out the agenda and gives the council a chance to discuss those items,” Nelson said.

Nelson said the council could still do some of the more routine work, such as bill payments and bond releases, during the workshop meetings.

The council would also be required to provide for public comment, but they would not vote on ordinances or hold public hearings on ordinances at the workshop session.

Mayer had some concerns about that format and suggested that they keep the format the same but move up the executive session; however, Councilwoman NancyAnn Fama disagreed.

“Why would we keep the meeting the way it is?” she asked. “We’ve been getting out at midnight and 1 in the morning,” she added. “We can look toward making these meetings more productive.”

Mayer continued to question the benefit of changing the meetings.

“That would leave us with just one business meeting a month,” Mayer said. “I’m really wondering what the benefit of the workshop would be.”

Nelson explained the benefits of the new meeting schedule

“The benefit of it would be the items that are not routine would be discussed at the meeting later in the month,” Nelson said. “It is really a workshop where you roll your sleeves up.

“Have the items listed for discussion, not action,” he added. “I have found it makes things a lot cleaner and gets a lot of issues out of the way in advance.”

Councilman Scott Larkin, who joined the council in July, said he wants to maximize discussion among the council members.

“I think it’s good how we argue about things, how we disagree,” Larkin said. “We are starting to come together.

“For myself to do my job, I need to be able to have some time to sit down with you guys and roll up our sleeves and let’s have our own discussion and arguments,” he added. “Sometimes I feel I just don’t get that chance.”

Nelson suggested that the council limit public comment to five minutes per person. Currently residents are generally given up to 10 minutes each during the public discussion.

“Most places do five, but it’s always really at the discretion of the council president,” Nelson said.

The council sought advice from Borough Clerk Karen Mount-Taylor, who has 20-plus years of experience in the borough.

“I agree with many of the points that Mr. Nelson has brought forth,” she said. “We are always willing to try it one way, and if it doesn’t work, we can try it another way.”

The council agreed that if the new meeting schedule doesn’t work, it could return to the present schedule. A resolution setting the new meeting schedule is expected to be on the agenda at the next council meeting on Oct. 20.

“If it doesn’t work, we can always go back,” Morrill said.

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