York County Commissioners to try later meeting time

York County Commissioners to try later meeting time
From left, York County District Attorney Kathryn Slattery, York County Commissioners Justin Chenette, Richard Dutremble and Robert Andrews; and York County Register of Deeds Nancy Hammond pose for a photo after getting sworn into office on Wednesday. PHOTO COURTESY OF EDUARD CHENETTE
Liz Gotthelf, Publisher

ALFRED —York County Commissioner Justin Chenette made good on a campaign promise by introducing a motion that resulted in a temporary change in the Commission’s meeting time.

After being sworn into office on Wednesday, Chenette, of Saco, participated in his first meeting as a County Commissioner and was appointed vice-chairman. Commissioner Richard Dutremble of Biddeford was appointed chairman.

Chenette proposed changing the meeting time of the Commission from 4:30 to 6 p.m. He said one of the reasons why he became a commissioner was to give his constituents a greater say in the decision-making process.

“I cannot tell you how many times constituents that put me in this seat have said 4:30 is not acceptable,” he said.

He said municipalities held meetings in the evenings to accommodate the schedule of community members who worked during the day, and county government needed to do the same. He said the Cumberland County Commissioner Board, which met at 5:30 p.m., had the latest meetings among the Commission boards in the state.

“What we’re talking about right now, is an opportunity to make York County Commission meetings the most accessible (county commission) meetings in the state at 6 p.m.,” said Chenette.

 

Dutremble said he had heard from one constituent who supported a meeting change to 6 p.m., while all other constituents he had spoken to were fine with the current 4:30 meeting time.

He said the Commission once tried a six-month trial period where it changed the meeting time, and during the trial, attendance did not increase.

Commissioner Robert Andrews said he didn’t think changing the meeting time would increase attendance, but would instead just make meetings more inconvenient for county government staff.

“I don’t see a real benefit for us to change the time from 4:30,” he said.

Commissioner Richard Clark had similar sentiments.

“I think 4:30 has worked really well, and I’m going to continue to support the 4:30 meeting,” he said.

Commissioner Donna Ring said that prior to serving as a County Commissioner, she was a York County government employee for 40 years. She said during the first 30 years of her employment, Commission meetings were held at 7 p.m. While many meetings held at 7 p.m. were not well attended by community members, evening meetings during budget season always drew a good turn-out, she said.

She said since the meetings changed to 4:30 p.m. about eight to 10 years ago, there had not been a lot of public attendance, and she was in favor of changing the time to encourage more community members to attend meetings.

“We are here to answer to the public, and let the public know what’s going on,” said Ring.

After discussion, a compromise was made, and the Commission voted four to one, with Clark opposed, to change the meeting time from 4:30 to 5 p.m. for a six-month trial period.

“Even a half an hour later makes it a little bit easier for folks to get here after work,” said Chenette.

After the six-month trial is over, the Commission will review its impact to determine if it wants to continue with the 5 p.m. meeting time.

Commission meetings are held the first and third Wednesday of the month at the county administrative building at 149 Jordan Springs Rd in Alfred.

Publisher Liz Gotthelf can be reached at [email protected]