Residents welcome new community meeting format

Roughly 30-40 people turned out for Wednesday’s community meeting at Princess Margaret Public School on Wednesday. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

The new community meeting format received positive reviews from residents who came out to Princess Margaret Public School on Wednesday.

Roughly 30-40 people attended the one-and-a-half hour come-and-go meeting, which replaces the traditional neighbourhood meetings that were held in each ward in previous years. A second meeting with a similar format will be held today at École Arthur Pechey Public School.

The more informal format was a significant departure from the structured presentations of the old ward meetings, but attendees seemed happy with the change.

“I think this was actually better,” attendee Pam Hanson said. “(City staff) were all very engaged. They were all very open for discussion.”

Hanson said previous ward meeting formats sometimes bogged down in presentations, especially for attendees who were interested in one or two issues. She said this format allowed them to ask their questions quickly without sitting through a number of presentations they weren’t interested in.

She wasn’t the only attendee to say that either. Some, like Greg McCullagh, worried that too many people were reluctant to ask questions in the old meeting format.  Fortunately, he said, the current laid back format has changed that.

“The other years, sometimes people wouldn’t stand up because it was a big crowd and there were presentations and they didn’t want to disrupt,” McCullagh said.

“Before, when you stopped for the presentations, there was some stuff that didn’t apply to you and it got a little boring,” Hanson added. “You sat through presentation after presentation after presentation. This one you could go to the booth that you’re interested in, talk, and get your answers.”

However, there were still a few concerns with the new format. Attendee Keaton O’Connor said he liked how easy it was to get his questions answered, however he also wished there were a few more displays or posters outlining each department’s main projects or priorities. Still, he was happy with what he saw.

“I think this is a positive route to go, you bet,” he said.

Deputy Mayor Don Cody said he was happy with how the new format was received, but added that it’s too early to say whether it’s here for good. If residents like the informal come-and-go meetings they’ll likely continue. However, city council won’t make any final decisions though until later.

“If there’s any improvements we can make, we’ll do that,” Cody said. “Certainly I think there’s always improvements that can be made but we’ll have to wait and see.”

One big item up for discussion will be locations for the next pair of meetings. This year they were held in the West Hill and East Flat neighbourhoods.

Cody said he’d like to see a rotation, which means next year’s meetings would be held in the East Hill and West Flat, but nothing has been decided yet.

“We just have to take a look at the situation and see how well it went,” he explained. “From what I see tonight, I think it went quite well.”

The final community meeting of 2019 runs today from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at École Arthur Pechey Public School.