Akron -- Starting times for Summit County Council regular meetings have changed.

Council Jan. 7 voted 8 to 3 to change its meeting times from 5 to 4:30 p.m., effective immediately. The 4:30 p.m. time matches the starting times for Council's committee meetings, which are every other Monday on the nights the full Council doesn't meet.

Members Tim Crawford, Gloria Rodgers, and Bill Roemer voted "no" to the change, while members Frank Comunale, Jerry Feeman, Nick Kostandaras, Sandra Kurt, Tamela Lee, Paula Prentice, John Schmidt and Ilene Shapiro voted "yes."

The change in time will help save the county money in both overtime and compensation time paid to workers who must attend the meetings, said Feeman, Council President.

"About 99 percent of the time, the folks who come to our Council meetings are other employees making their case on monies to be spent in their particular area," Feeman said Jan. 8.

Of those attending, most are county employees who work from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., according to Feeman. Cases dealing with individual citizen issues, such as zoning, rarely come before Council.

"So, the employees who have to stay, to make their case, are actually working overtime or comp time," Feeman said.

Council staff performed the study about six weeks ago to see what times the other 88 county Council meetings began. Only two counties started their meetings at 5 p.m., Feeman said. The remaining counties began their meetings between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m.

But Roemer believes starting times should be later "to allow constituents to come and participate." He said a later starting time would allow more constituents, who work during the day, to attend meetings, Roemer said.

"At 4:30 p.m. it's hard to get people who work to come to Council meetings," Roemer said. "It's up to us [Council] to make it easier for the constituents."

Rodgers agreed with Roemer and said she would have left the Council time at 5 p.m. and moved the 4:30 p.m. starting time ahead 30 minutes, to 5 p.m.

"The key is accessibility to the public," Rodgers said. "We are not here to serve government employees -- we are here to serve the public."

Roemer also believes the earlier start time will possibly prohibit quality candidates, who work a full-time job, to run for Council in the future, he said.

"So we limit the potential of those who can serve on Summit County Council," Roemer said.

Roemer said several people have approached him expressing a desire to attend Council meetings, but say they are not able to get from work and through downtown Akron traffic by 4:30 p.m.

"County Council meetings should be more convenient for the constituents than Council members and employees," Roemer said.

Email: ttroglen@recordpub.com

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