PUSLINCH – Council here is considering moving meetings to every three or four weeks throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Council John Sepulis brought the motion to the Dec. 16 Puslinch council meeting.
Typically council meets the first and third Wednesday of every month.
“I’m concerned about staff working long hours and burning out,” Sepulis said.
“We’ve seen examples where we get agendas Saturday morning … and late night and my take on it is we want the staff to be on their ‘A’ game to serve our residents and to help us out.
“And I think this COVID crisis is causing inefficiencies, which do not normally occur in an office environment.”
Sepulis cited the need for email or phone conversations instead of walking across the hall to talk to colleagues, caring for kids and other distractions as reasons for his motion.
“I may be wrong, but I’m looking at a way of reducing the staff workload by perhaps moving to a three-week or four-week cycle for council meetings,” he said.
Sepulis added he hopes that by putting the motion forward it will allow staff to look at alternatives and options without feeling self-serving.
“This is the opportunity for them to look at it and to me it’s for during the COVID crisis; we’re into something that’s unique and novel and if there’s ways to help staff ou,t I’m all for reducing the number of council meetings,” he said.
CAO Glenn Schwendinger thanked Sepulis for raising the topic.
“Yes we definitely can bring forward a report to you with a number of considerations,” he said. “We would want to make sure that we balance it out.
“Like you said, it’s to adjust the workload and the unnecessary duplication that might be taking place, but not too far of a gap that it makes the meetings too long or we missed specified deadlines or response times for things like that.”
All of the councillors were also on board with receiving a staff report about options.
“I would like staff to look at it as well. It would have to be a benefit to them,” Seeley said.
“They’re in a very cyclical situation right now …
“They just get one agenda built and they have to build another, so if there’s a way they can provide some efficiencies and they still are able to get the work done, I’m at least willing to see the report.”
Councillor Sara Bailey asked that if meetings are more spaced out and agendas become bigger, councillors receive what information they can well in advance for the meeting.
“If I’m given a bigger agenda, I just want to make sure I have time to get a deep understanding of it and not have such a big agenda that I can’t cover everything,” she said.
Councillor Matthew Bulmer supported the motion and said it may even lead to more efficiency once the COVID-19 pandemic is over.
“If it helps us retain staff and retain happier, effective staff, then it can only lead to better things,” he said. “So thank you very much – I support it 100 per cent.”
Councillor Jessica Goyda asked for staff input to find out if lengthening the time between meetings will actually make it more cumbersome for staff.
“I know for myself, personally, sometimes when I have longer deadlines I defer stuff and then it just piles up all together and becomes an even bigger job,” Goyda said.
“I would be in support of having staff report back on it and I would be supportive of their recommendations either way.”
Council passed the motion directing staff to look at reducing the frequency of meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic.