In an attempt to make it easier for members of the public to attend, the Lakeland City Commission will start holding its twice-a-month Monday meetings at 3 p.m. instead of 9 a.m. next month.

An even later start time had been discussed, but commissioners arrived at 3 p.m. as a balance between constituents’ work schedules and a desire to minimize overtime costs for city employees who would have to work late, City Manager Tony Delgado said.

The commission will still start their meetings with proclamations and presentations, so the business portion of the meeting often won’t start until closer to 4.

As commissioners pondered a new meeting time in the past, they felt some people could more easily leave 8-to-5 jobs an hour early rather than take off most of a morning. Those unable to leave work early could arrive soon after 5 while the meeting was still in progress.

In addition, former Commissioner Edie Yates had argued against an after-5 start, saying companies that hire lawyers and engineers to represent them at commission meetings would have to pay those professional at overtime rates for after-hours meeting attendance.

Will this change make it easier for you to attend meetings? Let us know on Facebook or below.

The new schedule starts Sept. 4, Delgado told commissioners this morning.

“This has been 11 years in the making,” Commissioner Justin Troller responded. “For my new colleagues who campaigned on this, I appreciate that. I look forward to creating the opportunity for more folks to participate. Whether they show up or not, they can’t say it’s in the workday anymore.”

Delgado presented a few scheduling specifics to commissioners this morning in case they want to make changes before the new start time goes into effect. Among them:

  • The public comment portion will remain at the end of the meeting “to give people more time to come in after work and have their discussions with you,” Delgado said. In recent months, public comments were schedule both at the end of the first hour of the meeting and at the end of the meeting.
  • “Equalization hearings,” in which property owners contest lot clearing and cleaning fees, will move earlier in the agenda so that the occasional person who attends those hearings won’t have to wait as long.
  • The city Utility Committee will continue meeting at 1 p.m. on Mondays.

Delgado acknowledged to LkldNow that there’s no guarantee that issues of intense public interest will be taken up after 5 p.m. But he noted that the city sometimes hold evening public forums on major issues.

The commission meets on the first and third Monday each month.

Some of the other issues covered in Friday’s City Commission agenda study session:

City is being asked to donate .39 acres of city land on Elliott Street at Kathleen Road to Florida DOT. The land figures in plans to 10-lane I-4 in the area. #lkld

— Lkld Now (@LkldNow) August 3, 2018

A DOT rep said they’re considering roundabouts at the off-ramp and at University Blvd. to improve safety. Project would include widening the bridge for future express lanes. Leaders at @FLPolyU and Bridgewater support the project, the rep said. #lkld

— Lkld Now (@LkldNow) August 3, 2018

The daker lots in the area of the map outlined in yellow is where 70-foot apartments and condos would be allowed, under the proposal being considered Monday. Properties with green hashes are currently undeveloped.

— Lkld Now (@LkldNow) August 3, 2018

City Commission is asked to approve Nutt Construction of Tullahoma TN to install irrigation at Cleveland Heights Golf Course. Bid of $1.4 million was highest of three but most responsive, city manager says. Fee increases will contribute to costs. #lkld

— Lkld Now (@LkldNow) August 3, 2018

City Commission is about to start its workshop on open alcohol carry in downtown Lakeland. Follow along at #lkld

— Lkld Now (@LkldNow) August 3, 2018

Commissioner Bill Read on open alcohol downtown: “I don’t want to be a New Orleans. I don’t want to be a Savannah. I don’t want to be a Las Vegas … I’m adamantly opposed to this.” #lkld

— Lkld Now (@LkldNow) August 3, 2018

Police Chief Giddens said open alcohol brings unintended consequences and increased policing costs. One is homeless folks: “How do you regulate their drinking vs. patrons of businesses?” #lkld

— Lkld Now (@LkldNow) August 3, 2018

Michael Dunn suggested perhaps having a First Friday after hours: The main event is family-friendy, but the after hours would allow alcohol. #lkld

— Lkld Now (@LkldNow) August 3, 2018

Dunn said some downtown restaurant and bar owners want to serve alcohol outside their events during special events. Staff said that’s already possible through special permits. #lkld

— Lkld Now (@LkldNow) August 3, 2018

@JustinTroller doesn’t want general open alcohol downtown, but said it should be considered for special events. Communications Director Kevin Cook: That is already available through special events permit process. #lkld

— Lkld Now (@LkldNow) August 3, 2018

Bottom line of City Commission’s open alcohol discussion: Downtown business owners will be asked if they want to allow open carry during special events downtown. (So far, most of the businesses have expressed little interest.) #lkld

— Lkld Now (@LkldNow) August 3, 2018

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Barry Friedman founded in 2015 as the culmination of a career in print and digital journalism. Since 1982, he has used the tools of reporting, editing and content curation to help people in Lakeland understand their community better.

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