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The Times
  • Early birds or night owls? Committees meet mornings, nights

  • Should Herkimer County committee meetings take place in the morning or at night?

    Some of the county’s 17 legislators argue meeting times have trended toward the morning, discouraging the public from attending and making it difficult for legislators who work during the day to attend.

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  •  Should Herkimer County committee meetings take place in the morning or at night?
    Some of the county’s 17 legislators argue meeting times have trended toward the morning, discouraging the public from attending and making it difficult for legislators who work during the day to attend.
    “My concern is we’re driving away a number of people, including potential candidates who may not be retired,” said Legislator Gary Hartman, D-Herkimer.
    He said he finds it difficult to attend morning meetings because he works during the day.
    Committee attendance numbers for 2013 (through June 6) show there’s been roughly the same number of meetings in the morning (19) and afternoon or evening (16).
    The average attendance was about 11 in the morning and 15 in the evening.
    Last year, there were 30 committee meetings in the morning with an average of six people attending, while 67 evening meetings averaged 13.
    Chairs of the committees said the current setup has been working well for their members and allows for the department heads to be available for questions.
    “Frankly, (committee member) attendance has been good,” said Patrick Russell, R-Old Forge, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. “The department heads are there.”
    Russell said it also allows them to have multiple committee meetings together or back to back, saving taxpayers on mileage paid to legislators driving to the county office building.
    “The nice thing about it is … sometimes I’d have to come down three nights a week,” he said. “We’re getting everything done in one morning.”
    In neighboring Oneida County, Republican Major Leader George Joseph, R-Clinton, said the Legislature rarely has committee meetings before 4:30 p.m.
    “We’re all citizen legislators, and to take time from their jobs or careers or whatever … some have to take vacation time to do it,” he said.
    All legislators are welcome to committee meetings, Joseph said. He added the chairmen set the times, and committees try to meet back to back.
    Dennis Korce, R-Mohawk, chairman of Herkimer County Properties Committee, said there hasn’t been a conflict so far with those on the committee.
    Legislator Robert Schrader, R-Herkimer, who is a member of the properties committee, said he’s sometimes requested meetings take place in the evening, and they’ve been granted.
    “Sometimes, it does bother me that the meetings are during the day,” he said, but he “doesn’t think it’s politically motivated at all.”
    Russell said his concern for meeting times rests with the members, and the chair of the committee determines the time.
    “Committee meetings are for committee members,” he said, adding those who have questions can contact the committee chair prior to the meeting. “We don’t operate as a committee of the whole.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Korce said it’s up to the legislators who might not sit on a committee as to whether they attend.
    “Does it disenfranchise somebody who can’t make the meeting because they’re at work? Yes,” he said. “There is a positive and a negative. I’m willing to see how it goes.”
    Hartman and Legislator Helen Rose, D-Herkimer, sit on the Information Services Committee, which as of June 6 has yet to meet. Schrader and legislators Ray Johnson, R-Ilion, and John Brezinski, D-Frankfort, also only sit on one committee. Schrader and Johnson sit on County Properties and Brezinski sits on Natural Resources.
    The rest of the legislators are on at least three committees, some members sitting on as many as six.
    “Because the minority is so extremely underrepresented on most committees, it’s critically important for they — the majority — to appreciate the presence of minorities at committee meetings,” Rose said.
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