Have you ever thought about attending a High River council meeting but weren’t sure what to expect? While the idea of attending may seem daunting at first, council meetings are a great way to learn firsthand how decisions are made, and are probably more interesting than you might expect.
The first place you should start before attending a council meeting is to take a look at the agenda on the Town website and see what interests you. Council meetings are held on the second and fourth Monday of each month, except in July, August and December, when there is just one meeting. Agendas are typically posted on the Thursday or Friday before the meeting and contain detailed background information on the topic.
Council meetings start right at 3 p.m. so you may want to come a couple minutes early to choose your seat. Council will be located at the front of the room and there are two small tables located off to each side reserved for members of the media and Town of High River staff. All other seats are open to the public. Meetings can vary in length depending on how long the agenda is, but generally average between one to two hours.
If a public hearing is scheduled it will be held first and include a presentation, as well as opportunities for anyone who is against, or who supports the issue to speak. Public hearings are held on many major issues like the introduction of a new bylaw or changing of a land use, but are generally only scheduled when required by legislation. After that the regular meeting will begin, and if there are no changes to the agenda, it will be adopted by council.
The first part of the regular meeting includes delegations from community groups or other organizations, as well as comments from the public on agenda items. The minutes from previous council meetings will also be adopted and become part of the public record.
The main part of the meeting consists of several sections broken into financial reports, notice of motions, bylaws, old business and new business. A range of issues can be presented to council including budget discussions, bylaw or policy amendments, capital expenditures, award presentations or any other public issue needing discussion.
Once the item has been presented, council has the opportunity to ask questions to the presenter, and to debate the issue. This is the interesting part as each councillor gets to share their views with the public.
After all councillors have had the chance to speak, the mayor will bring forth a motion for council to vote on. Any councillor can suggest changes to the motion, and one item could have several motions related to it. Once the vote is finished, the decision has been made and is referred to as a resolution from council.
The whole council meeting process may sound formal, and parts of it are, but there are also a lot of fun and lighthearted moments throughout the meeting. Council meetings are always open to the public and are a great way to learn more about the municipal government process.