On the second and fourth Tuesday of the month when the Bryan City Council meets, Councilman Chuck Konderla says city staff often start their day early, work through normal hours and attend the meeting that can last several hours, often resulting in 16-plus hour days and a precarious work-life balance.
It's one of the reasons why Konderla and Councilman Greg Owens requested to place an item on the agenda for Tuesday's council meeting to consider changing the start time for workshop and regular council meetings to as early as 8 a.m. beginning with the first meeting in November.
The Bryan City Council typically begins its meetings at 6 p.m. But the meetings are becoming "longer and longer," Konderla said, and he's spoken to constituents who have said they would like to attend but don't want to leave their families in the evening.
"I think the beauty of moving it, in my opinion, is that you get started earlier with the workshops and executive session so open meetings start earlier as well," Konderla said.
Owens said Tuesday's agenda item is a way to start a dialogue to come up with a better way to have the meetings or to "take into account the length of time the meetings last." Owens said he'll support moving the meeting start time in some form.
"The regular meeting starts at 6 p.m. and we get to City Hall at 2 p.m. or 2:30 p.m. or noon depending on how much we need to do," Owens said. "All we're saying is, let's start earlier. Maybe it's 10 a.m., maybe it's 9 a.m. and the regular meeting would be a little earlier in the afternoon."
Some options could include having an evening meeting once every quarter, or trying an earlier start time for six months to see if it works, Owens said. He pointed to the Bryan Independent School board of trustees' format of having one school board meeting a month at noon and a second at 6 p.m.
It's not unprecedented for a government meeting to be in the morning -- the Brazos County Commissioners Court meets at 10 a.m. regularly -- but the Bryan City Council doesn't have a history of early start times.
In 1969, the council usually met at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesdays, and in the 1970s the time was moved to 5 p.m. on Mondays, said City Secretary Mary Lynne Stratta. In 1991, the council moved its meetings to 6 p.m. on Tuesdays so as not to conflict with Bryan ISD school board meetings, and there has been no change since.
While the council goes into open session for the regular agenda at 6 p.m., Stratta said workshop and executive session before then are sometimes at different hours.
"We figure out how long we need and back it up from there with hopes of being downstairs at 6 o'clock," Stratta said.
The College Station City Council usually has its workshops at 5:30 p.m. before their 7 p.m. regular meeting.
Konderla said he's received several messages from constituents "applauding" the idea to have meetings earlier, saying it's good for staff and a better use of the city's money. He did receive an email from one person saying morning meetings would take away the ability for people to speak at the Hear Citizens forum at the beginning of the meeting.
If the meeting time changes, Konderla said, there would still be an opportunity for Hear Citizens, a time when people can address the council for three minutes on topics not on the regular agenda. Konderla added Hear Citizens is not required by state law, and council members can be reached at any time for conversations via phone, email or in person.
"There's no ideal situation for everyone, but I've been on council almost five and a half years, and people have told me, 'I would have liked to come and speak on that, but I have to be home with my family,'" Konderla said. "Sometimes people can get off work easier than they can get a sitter in the evening."
Konderla said the biggest payoffs to having earlier meetings would be providing a better work-life balance for staff and potentially attracting City Council candidates who would not be able to run otherwise. Konderla said people have told him that they would like to run for City Council, but can't attend evening meetings.
Konderla, whose at-large Place 6 seat is up for grabs, did not file for re-election and will leave the council in November, said that "me being there or me not being there does not change those things being big benefits."