Fayette County

New council, mayor will operate under new rules

On Monday, the first day of Mayor Jim Gray's administration, the way the city's public officials conduct business will be substantially different.

The Urban County Council worked two years on the restructuring, which was approved by the council earlier this year.

"It's going to streamline things and provide a more efficient way to address the needs of our city," said council member George Myers.

The changes are not "sexy and flashy," he said. They are more about process and the way city government works day to day.

Gray and Vice Mayor-elect Linda Gorton voted in favor of the restructuring.

The most visible change to the public will be at the council's Tuesday work sessions, where key issues are usually debated before they come up for official votes. Previously, work sessions have been led by the mayor.

Gorton, as vice mayor, will now preside over work sessions. Also, the number of work sessions will be reduced from four each month to two.

The mayor will still preside over official council meetings on Thursday nights.

Those meetings will now take place at 6 p.m. instead of 7. That move was made because the council will no longer vote at work sessions to place items onto the official Thursday docket. Those votes will now be taken on Thursday nights.

"We expect more work. That's why we moved the meeting time to 6 p.m.," said Gorton.

Among other changes, the number of standing council committees (where issues get hashed out and researched at early stages) will be increased to seven from the current four. Seven council members will serve on each committee, instead of 10 members per committee under the current system. The committees will be Planning and Zoning; Social Services; General Government, Law and General Services; Budget and Finance; Public Safety and Public Works; Environmental Quality, and Economic Development.

"There is a six-month clause built into it," said Jamie Emmons, Gray's chief of staff. "Some people like it, some people are wary, but everyone is very interested to see how it works. If it works, great. If not, we can adjust."

Council member Kevin Stinnett was one of five to vote against the restructuring. The others were Cheryl Feigel, Doug Martin, Jay McChord and Ed Lane.

Stinnett said the mayor should remain part of the work sessions because it allows the mayor and council to see each other regularly, and to have open debate in public.

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