Saugatuck City Councilman John Porzondek thinks the council’s workshop meetings could use a little work. And he doesn’t want to read about workshop discussions in the media before he hears about the topic from city officials.
Porzondek, who has missed recent workshops, asked his fellow councilmembers Monday night to reconsider how the workshop meetings are run, including how much time residents in the audience get to talk about issues.
“If this is a true workshop, three minutes isn’t enough,” he said at the council’s regular meeting.
Other council members said the workshops are informal enough that audience members get plenty of time to speak. Some also said that if Porzondek misses a workshop, he needs to check in with the city manager the next day.
The council has a workshop at 4 p.m. Thursday before the regular 7 p.m. Monday council meeting. At the workshop, council members discuss topics that might be more complex and take more technical knowledge and input from professionals than a regular meeting will allow. The topics can take weeks or months to come before the council at a regular meeting where all voting takes place.
No decisions are made at the workshops. The meetings are open to the public, but few people attend.
“I’m tracking with you to get more people involved,” said Councilman Barry Johnson. The council can look at ways to improve the workshop, he added, including recording them so they can be broadcast on community access television, as the regular meetings are.
The city now sends out the workshop agendas with supporting background, when available, to people who sign up on an email list. There are about 200 people on the list.
“If there’s something on it they are interested in, they’ll come,” said City Manager Kirk Harrier about the agendas.
What set off Porzondek’s comments was the Jan. 19 workshop during which an engineer presented plans for a half-acre park. One idea was for an 80-100 seat amphitheater at the corner of Butler and Water streets. Porzondek was not at the workshop and a story later appeared in The Sentinel then other newspapers.
“I don’t want to see another thing in the paper I’m not aware of,” he said.
The idea of an amphitheater was scrapped at a workshop last week after residents brought up concerns, said Mayor Jane Verplank.