Rainford proposes moving up start of County Commission meetings from 9 a.m. to 8 a.m.

Moran, Cutsinger suggest that county staff conduct extensive outreach before any change implemented

Commissioner Neil Rainford. Image courtesy Sarasota County

Sarasota County Commissioner Neil Rainford appears to have won sufficient support of his colleagues to change the start of their meetings from 9 a.m. to 8 a.m.

Nonetheless, Chair Michael Moran suggested during the April 9 discussion that the members of the public need to have an opportunity to offer their thoughts on the proposal, before the board members formally amend their Rules of Procedure.

During his report to the other commissioners, as part of their regular meeting last week, Rainford pointed out, “As we were sitting here, waiting for this meeting to get started this morning,” he had thought about proposing the earlier time for the sessions to get underway, an idea he previously had entertained.

“I’ve been thinking about it for a while,” Rainford said, adding that an 8 a.m. start would enable people who have workdays that begin at 9 a.m. to be able to appear before the commissioners at the Open to the Public comment periods.

“I did talk to Jonathan,” Rainford continued, referring to County Administrator Jonathan Lewis. Based on their discussion, Rainford said, he believed the transition could take place, as long as his colleagues were amenable to it.

“I’m up early,” he pointed out. “I believe most of you guys are up early.”

“I just need all the beauty sleep I can get,” Commissioner Joe Neunder responded laughingly.

“You’re one of the youngest ones up here,” Rainford replied.

“Don’t know that it’s ever been done,” Neunder responded, referring to an 8 a.m. opening for the meetings. Still, he said, “I have no heartburn about it.”

Nonetheless, Neunder added, again jokingly, “I think Commissioner Smith needs beauty sleep, too.”

“Obviously,” Commissioner Mark Smith replied with a chuckle. “But I’m going to show up 15 minutes before, no matter what, anyway.”

That was the point when Moran told his colleagues, “I’m totally OK with what the community wants. That’s what I’m interested in.”

Commissioner Michael Moran. File image

Perhaps the county’s Communications Department could “make sure there’s proper posting on our website” and work with the news media “to make sure that the public is heard on that,” Moran continued. Whatever’s more accommodating for [the public], I’m all ears,” Moran said.

Rainford asked Lewis whether the proposed change could be disseminated within the community “over the  course of like a month or so.”

If the commissioners agree to the change in the starting time, Lewis replied, then he would plan an upcoming agenda item for them to change their Rules of Procedure. The proposed amendment to the policy would be advertised in advance, Lewis added.

As for the proposal in regard to staff’s working hours, Lewis said, “We’re here when you guys are here.”

Commissioner Ron Cutsinger concurred with Moran about the need for adequate public notice and then board discussion before the change goes into effect. He indicated that he wanted to be certain that county residents would favor the 8 a.m. starting time.

Lewis told the commissioners he would try to schedule the discussion on amending the Rules of Procedure as part of the board’s first regular meeting in May, which is set for May 7 at the R.L. Anderson Administration Center in Venice.

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