City changes meeting procedures to be more efficient

Published 7:00 pm Wednesday, January 30, 2019

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen have changed the way it conducts its meetings. Beginning with its Jan. 10 meeting, the board is using what is called a consent agenda — a category for approving routine board items such as board minutes, placing employees on the city driving list, paying invoices, donations to nonprofit organizations, Vicksburg Main Street requests and new hires.

The items are voted on as a group, not individually, reducing meeting time.

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A majority of the board can vote to remove a consent agenda item to the regular agenda for discussion.

Consent agendas are not uncommon for public bodies; the Vicksburg Warren School District has a consent agenda for its regular meetings. Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said he got the idea for the city’s after a visit to Oxford, where its board of aldermen use a consent agenda.

“I saw how they utilized their agenda, and we just modified ours to fit that model as a best practice,” Flaggs said. “It’s curbing the (meeting) time.”

He said the board has adopted other changes in the city government’s operations.

One was the requirement that the mayor and the aldermen physically sign off on agenda items. Now, Flaggs said, he and the aldermen can approve an agenda item by text, email or electronic signature.

“It has significantly reduced the time in which they (members of the city clerk’s office) have to try and locate us, and I’ve seen an increase in productivity. When you see an increase in productivity, that’s saving money,” he said, adding he is looking to create more ways to increase efficiency in city government.

Flaggs, however, did not have statistics in how much the city has saved, “But I can tell you when you look at the reduction in paperwork and the time it takes to locate one of us, I think you’re going to save.”

North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield believes the new process will improve meetings.

“I think in the form that it’s in currently, I don’t have problem with it, because I think it modifies the time you would spend (in the meeting) outside (of) executive session and special meetings; it would free more time up for those things.

“And anything that goes on that agenda that’s voted on, anything any of us don’t agree with, we can take it off the consent agenda and discuss it. From what I’ve seen at this point, it looks like it’s going to work rather well,” Mayfield said.

“It does speed the process up,” South Ward Alderman Alex Monsour said.

He said the board has “always had a safeguard,” because as mayor pro tem, he has to look over and approve the agenda items.

“I know what they are about; I always get a good look at them before the meeting,” he said. “From the public’s view it’s all done faster in the meeting because the mayor reads most of them (consent items) and we approve them at one time. It’s not that different to me. At first, it was just getting over the procedural items.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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