After years of starting meetings at 7 p.m., Pahrump Town Board members on Tuesday voted 3-2 to allow meetings to begin two hours earlier.
Members Amy Riches and Bob Adams cast the only votes against the idea.
Earlier this year, Pahrump Town Manager Susan Holecheck sought public input regarding an earlier start time of town board meetings.
Holecheck’s purpose was two-fold.
She said if the meetings began earlier, the town could cut down on overtime costs for hourly employees.
She also noted that meetings with lengthy agenda items tend to run late in the evening, giving the board and staff little time to rest and recover for their next day’s duties.
Prior to Holcheck’s arrival as town manager this year, board meetings at times ran past midnight, sometimes even 1 a.m.
“I have taken surveys and I have gotten a lot of phone calls from people about a new possible start time. If the town were in favor, I would like to see us move the meeting to 5:30 p.m., or at a minimum at least move them to 6 p.m., if that is the board’s pleasure,” Holecheck said. “That means hopefully all of us can get out and get the business done and get a good night’s sleep. When meetings run that late it can be a challenge because you don’t want to lose that edge of being able to communicate properly and analyze different situations. My main concern is that we may not be on point and precise in our thinking the next morning,” she said.
During a recent meeting, the board voted to allow for public comment before, and after each agenda item.
Public comment is also offered at the close of the meetings.
As a result, audience members who felt compelled to give their respective thoughts and feelings to the board on each and every agenda item were given that luxury which by definition, made the meetings longer.
Holecheck said implementing the new method, gave late arrivals ample time to express themselves near the close of meetings.
“Some people say leave it alone, some people say change it, and some say they don’t care,” said Bill Dolan, the board’s vice chairman. “I will also go with the pleasure of the board.”
Riches said she’d do whatever “the people” want.
“Whatever the people want is what I will do,” she said.
Adams, meanwhile, offered up the idea of having a start time that parallels Daylight Savings Time and Standard Time out of concerns that some of the town’s elderly population prefer not to drive after sunset.
“I would like to leave it the same but in the wintertime maybe 6 p.m. would be a good start time. During the summer, I would like to leave it at 7 p.m.,” he told the board.
It was not a coincidence that the topic was placed on an agenda when the board was meeting early anyway. The start time was an unusually early 4 p.m. on Tuesday.
Board and staff believe that the numerous items would result in a meeting that ran later than normal.
This week’s meeting clocked in at more than five hours. A 7 p.m. start time would have adjourned well past midnight.
Due to last month’s retreat, there was just one meeting in November resulting in a packed early December agenda.
Dr. Tom Waters drew some laughs when he explained his position.
“I am RTC – ‘Resistant to Change.’ I let everybody know that I am totally against any change at all. However, one argument was the fact that more people would attend if we had the meetings earlier. I have tried that with my church groups but the same people attend. I don’t think it will increase attendance or anything else,” he said.
In a rare occurrence, Stephanie Massimino, an executive assistant at the Town of Pahrump offices, offered public comment on the issue.
Part of Massimino’s duties requires her regular presence at least twice a month during the meetings.
“When I get here at 6:30 p.m. and I am here until 11:00, I turn around go home and wake up at 6 a.m. to get back to work by 8 a.m. I don’t get to sleep and that’s my biggest issue. I am usually lagging or tired because I do work 8-to-5, come here and work for another four and a half to five hours. It does exhaust me. If we start at five, that’s fantastic. If you start at six that’s great too, but just keep that in mind,” she urged the board.
Following further discussion, three board members, Waters, Kulkin and Dolan agreed with Massimino and Holecheck.
The new 5 p.m. start time will begin early in 2014.