City council plans “viewing session” | News

Meadville City Council members discussed on Wednesday the possibility of holding a “visualization session” to receive public input on council priorities for the coming year.

The exact date and form of the meeting could be determined at the next council meeting on January 19. As a public meeting, the viewing session will require publicity before it takes place.

The time and form are yet to be determined, but City Councilor Autumn Vogel argued the need for the session is clear.

“The 2021 board set some priorities for the year we would be working on,” Vogel said, explaining why she requested the viewing session. “Despite those on the agenda for each meeting, little progress has been made in this regard.”

Early last year, using a poll distributed electronically by city staff, council members voted on top priorities to address in light of a looming budget deficit that is expected to exceed more than $ 600,000. In early February, a list of five goals began to appear on the agenda for every board meeting: to review the shifting of 911 dispatch; review the marketing of 984 Water Street, the former Town Hall building; start the home rule charter process; implement third party billing for fire services; and the reassessment of land values ​​at the county level.

By December, that list was reduced to three and had evolved in other ways. The elimination of dispatch personnel from the Meadville Police Department had been considered and strongly rejected; the old town hall building had been sold to a subsidiary of Meadville Medical Center for $ 725,000; and third party billing had been implemented.

On the other hand, the holding of a town hall on the county-wide reassessment had been suspended and the development of a capital improvement plan and an asset inventory had been added to the abbreviated list. of three priorities.

The fate of the remaining priority – the start of the national self-government charter process – was more complicated.

In some respects, progress has been made. Consider autonomy, which can give financially strapped municipalities greater flexibility in generating income through taxes, was recommended by the consultants who reported on Meadville’s finances early on. from last year.

The city also hosted an AmeriCorps VISTA intern who started mid-year and gave council a detailed presentation on the self-reliance process in September.

After that, however, as the annual budget season approached in November and two council members lost their primaries and prepared to leave, interest in the pursuit of self-government seemed to wane.

After Wednesday’s meeting, Vogel offered a vision of what the proposed visualization session might look like, with audience members breaking into small groups to discuss particular priorities and board members rotating between the different groups. Her hope, she said, is that whatever format is used, the meeting will allow for a more collaborative process.

Polling board members on their personal priorities via email might be faster and easier, but Vogel expressed optimism that the more laborious viewing process was worth it.

“I hope that by involving the audience themselves in this session, there will be a level of accountability and transparency that we set,” Vogel said after the meeting. “It’s better in the long term to make sure that we see (these priorities) through to the end.” “

Another benefit, Deputy Mayor Larry McKnight added, would likely be increased public participation.

“We want the involvement of the community,” he said.

“We want you here. We want to hear what you have to say, ”added Vogel. “We will take this to heart and act on it. “

Mike Crowley can be reached at (814) 724-6370 or by email at [email protected]

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