Amarillo by morning: City council testing out 7 a.m. meeting time

Amarillo by morning: City council testing out 7 a.m. meeting time

AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) - Those who attend Amarillo's City Council will have to arrive at city hall much earlier to make the meeting, beginning next month.

City Council currently meets at 5:00 p.m. on Tuesdays for public comment and its regular agenda.

Beginning September 4th, meetings will begin at 7:00 a.m. on Tuesdays.

The evening to morning time switch is being tested out for 90 days.

The city says after that period, it'll evaluate if the meeting will remain at 7 in the morning or change again.

"We'll start the meeting with public comment so that we can separate public comment as far as possible from the work day," said Jared Miller, City Manager for the City of Amarillo. "At least an hour and as little as 30 minutes if we go all the way to the end of the public comment period."

The city says scheduling is a common challenge no matter the hour.

"In the afternoons, we're either going to miss people that don't get off at 5:00 p.m. or don't get off at 4:30 p.m. or have after school activities or other reasons why they can't be there on Tuesday evenings, whether it's church or other," said Miller. "In the morning, we're going to have the same conflicts that people articulated, challenges with the school drops off, challenges with the early starting jobs."

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Some residents say they're concerned this will limit the voice of those who want their opinions heard.

"Why? I have no idea," said Kip Billups, an Amarillo resident who attends council regularly. "They've given several reasons. Bottom line is we've had more attendance since March at City Hall than in the history of Amarillo, Texas."

"This council has used the excuse that they want to change the time to allow working mothers to attend the council meetings," said Claudette Smith, an Amarillo resident who has spoken at public comment. "However, I have not heard anyone speak out saying that there's a problem and that they can't attend doing the meetings not being at 7:00 a.m."

Miller said while only a handful of city employees in attendance are on a hourly wage, the amount of time all employees commit does have to be accounted for.

"When you're looking at anywhere from two to five hours of evening work on one day were I can manage that to one hour, never more than one hour by doing that in the mornings - there's an efficiency there to be gained," said Miller. "Now we don't want that efficiency to be at the expense of people to come see comment, make comment or be at the meeting. So, we're working to balance that and that's what this is all about."

While a council meeting will not be a Tuesday evening during the trial run, Miller said the switch presents an opportunity for other city functions.

"It's not like Tuesday nights will be absent city meetings," said Miller.  "But it will be absent the concentration of employees and the immense dedication of resources that we have to this meeting."

If you can't make the new time, you can contact the city through email, phone calls or through the online comment submission.

Miller said when a comment is received through one of those mediums, it's shared with all council members.

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