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Santa Maria City Hall

Starting tonight, Santa Maria’s City Council meetings will start an hour earlier.

During its first meeting in August, the City Council gave final approval to an amendment of the city’s code to set City Council’s meetings to the first and third Tuesday of the month starting at 5:30 p.m.

Earlier this summer, the council asked city staff about changing the time the ruling body meets. Discussions included starting the regular meetings one hour earlier or even three hours earlier.

Councilman Jack Boysen raised the issue in June. On July 18, the council heard from its support staff and settled on a 5:30 p.m. start time. The ordinance received a second reading and final approval at the council’s Aug. 1 meeting.

“Starting City Council meetings earlier will allow more time for discussion of agenda items, as well as providing the opportunity to finish meetings earlier,” City Manager Rick Haydon said.

In addition, Haydon said an earlier start time may help increase public participation at future meetings.

To encourage even more public participation, the council also voted to change how their meeting is structured.

Historically, the Santa Maria City Council held one public comment session at the start of its meeting. The public comment portion of the agenda is for members of the public to speak to items that may not be on the agenda but that they want to bring to the council's attention. 

Starting tonight, Santa Maria City Council meetings will have two public comment sessions -- one at the beginning and one at the end of the meeting.

Speakers must fill out a public comment form and be called to the podium for each session, and speakers are limited to three minutes, or as directed by the mayor. 

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“I believe the benefits to an early start time outweigh any negatives,” said Boysen, adding that he knows an earlier start time may pose difficulties for some. 

Having two public comment periods will accommodate anyone who wants to speak to the council but cannot make it to the meeting by 5:30 p.m., Boysen added.

The new meeting time could be a temporary change. The council included a six-month review into its ordinance change, so if the expected benefits do not occur, the Santa Maria City Council may vote to change the meeting time again.

During tonight's meeting, the Santa Maria City Council will make two special proclamations, discuss appointments to its Community Development Block Grant Committee and start discussions about amending its current ordinance on massage parlors in the city to match new state laws.

Tuesday’s proclamations will include declaring September Ovarian Cancer and Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in the city of Santa Maria.

The council meets, unless otherwise specified, in its council chambers inside City Hall, at 110 E. Cook St.

Logan B. Anderson covers city government in Santa Maria for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter: @LoganBAnderson.