In the absence of a 2013 election in Castle Rock, town manager Mark Stevens thought it was time for some housekeeping.
Traditionally, an organizational update welcomed new councilmembers each year, Stevens said. The election cycle reducing council elections from an annual cycle to a two-year cycle became effective this year, eliminating the annual update, Stevens said.
To check in with council on administrative matters, Stevens submitted a checklist March 5 asking for feedback on how town council conducts business.
The conversation took more than an hour, with a split vote on whether or not to conduct day-long work sessions. The work sessions ranked among the more highly debated items on Stevens’ list.
Councilmembers this year reduced their meeting commitment from weekly meetings to every other week. The change was driven by councilmember Jennifer Green, District 3, elected in 2011.
Green, the mother of two children, extended her family-friendly meeting schedule with an argument to eliminate day-long retreats and work sessions
“For me, getting a day off work is a challenge,” Green said. “Why not do a special four-hour meeting?”
Council supported her idea for evening sessions with a 3-2 vote. The sessions cover in-depth discussions about financial issues, major projects and policies.
Councilmembers also got direction on how to propose an agenda item without consuming staff time. Councilmembers are first to gauge support of any proposal among fellow councilmembers. From there, councilmembers submit the item to the town manager for public discussion.
Town staff provides a research narrative for discussion items, which can be time-consuming projects, Stevens said.
“Typically you have some work to flesh out the idea for council consideration and public input,” Stevens said. “Individual councilmembers don’t have the authority to direct staff work.”
Council opted to reduce its special meetings in 2013 and decided against resurrecting the HOA roundtables. The roundtables were discussions with homeowner associations throughout Castle Rock. Participation in the HOA roundtables dwindled to a handful of people after the first few meetings.
“In terms of a group meeting, everyone (in an HOA) has their own issues to talk about,” said Councilmember Clark Hammelman, District 6. “Or else they don’t feel comfortable talking about their issues in a group setting.”
Council’s final decision reflected on the transition to electronic information in town government. Councilmembers opted to go with an online information guide in lieu of a traditional policy manual.
Most members admitted they had never read the town’s policy manual, instead directing their questions to town staff.
“I’m going to be honest, I never read it,” said Mayor Paul Donahue, District 1. “I ended up asking for forgiveness a lot on that one.”