Calaveras board adds on meetings

Sean Janssen, The Union Democrat

The Calaveras County Board of Supervisors is preparing to meet more often and sometimes in the evenings.

The board reached a consensus during a study session Tuesday afternoon on adding a third meeting per month on a quarterly basis beginning in July.

Supervisors have met on the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month for almost two years, scaling back from first through fourth Tuesdays as a cost-saving measure.

The move proved unpopular at first but there was little if any support from the public Tuesday for a return to weekly meetings.

Supervisor Darren Spellman said that, while he may have been the lone vote against scaling the number of meetings back in 2011, he has come to favor it.

"It gives you more time to research topics," he said.

Supervisor Debbie Ponte, who took office just three months ago, said it seems to work.

"I'm finding so far two meetings seem to be sufficient for what we're doing," Ponte said.

She suggested setting a regular lunch break on the agenda as meetings, particularly with controversial topics, have tended to reach well into the afternoon without more than a 10-minute recess.

Supervisor Chris Wright said meetings should be conducted in the evenings about once a quarter to give more working people and students an opportunity to address their local government.

Retired Calaveras High School history teacher Jim Pesout has long advocated for occasional night meetings for the benefit of students. Pesout told the board he collected more than 300 signatures from Calaveras and Bret Harte high school students calling for the change.

The board agreed an evening session in July on the General Plan land use guide update would make a good pilot for such an effort.

Calaveras County Clerk-Recorder Madaline Krska agreed the occasional added session will not be too burdensome for her staff. Krska said the lengthiest board meetings and strongest need for weekly sessions came when controversial planning matters regularly appeared before the board during the mid-2000s building boom.

In another board procedure matter addressed during the session, four board members agreed when a board member chooses to abstain from a vote for a reason other than conflict of interest, they will be recorded as having voted with the majority. If the abstention creates a 2-2 deadlock, the law determines what that outcome means. County Counsel Janis Elliott said in most cases it means a proposed action will not pass, with exceptions including some planning matters.

Spellman, who has notably abstained from a few votes in the past two and a half years, said he will leave the room in cases in which he would have otherwise abstained, resulting in him being recorded as absent in such a case.

The Union Democrat
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