The Cape Girardeau County Commission has approved holding some nighttime meetings.
All three commissioners Monday approved meeting at 7 p.m. on Dec. 7, 10, 14 and 17. Additionally, the commission will meet at 7 p.m. on the first Thursday of January, February and March. The commission currently meets in open session only on Monday and Thursday mornings, unless a special meeting is scheduled.
"That's four nights we can discuss budgets and try meeting on the first Thursday of the month for three months and see how it works," said 1st District Commissioner Paul Koeper, who presented the amendment to 2nd District Commissioner Jay Purcell's motion that also included night meetings on Nov. 30 and Dec. 3.
Purcell, who proposed the idea during the commission's meeting Thursday, said the move will contribute to making county government as accessible as possible. He said the nighttime meetings would be on a trial basis to gauge public interest in a different format.
"If we have several citizens show up and it allows them to have more input, then what we would do is an analysis to see if we do this full time or a variation," Purcell said. "Budget discussions occur during those nights.
"That's when we make hard decisions on what to cut or put in the budget," he said. "Those type of discussions touch every part of government."
Koeper, who has also voiced support in the past for nighttime meetings, said that while he is not opposed to the idea, he has other county commitments a few evenings per week. Attending even more meetings each week is something he prefers not to happen, Koeper said.
"I just don't want to drag this out where I'm here and at meetings for as many as 15 hours a day," Koeper said.
Purcell said the commissioners may have to readjust their schedules if the trial run of 7 p.m. meetings results in high attendance by county residents.
David Turner of Jackson told commissioners they should consider holding most meetings during the day and opt for nighttime meetings when there are issues of great concern for the public.
"If you have a hot-button issue, you can advertise [that] it will be discussed in a meeting at night," Turner said.
Koeper agreed, saying the commission may want to hold a combination of nighttime and daytime meetings, which he proposed in the amendment.
Later in the meeting the commission discussed 2010 budgets for 20 offices, most of which have asked for 3.5 percent cost-of-living pay increases. During the next few meetings the commission will discuss the remaining 18 offices before the budget hearings begin in the nighttime meetings.
1 Barton Square, Jackson, MO