Merced City Council to hold town halls at middle schools

Informal style of meetings improves communication, members say

jsmith@mercedsunstar.comJanuary 14, 2013 

— Following last year's first ever town-hall style meeting, city officials announced Monday that two more public meetings will take place in north and south Merced.

"It's a much more informational atmosphere," Mayor Stan Thurston said. "We're able to discuss things with citizens because we're not in a formal meeting. The only thing on the agenda is let's talk with each other."

The meetings will be at Tenaya Middle School, 760 W. Eighth St., on Jan. 28; and at Rivera Middle School, 945 Buena Vista Drive, on Feb. 25. The meetings will be from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

The city's first special meeting outside City Hall was held last April at Sacred Heart Catholic Church's social hall in south Merced. Area residents voiced concerns about a number of issues, including McNamara Park, which has subsequently benefitted from significant city and community attention.

"That was really productive," Thurston said. "That was the epicenter of how we got the pool open last summer. I can't imagine that these (meetings) won't become a permanent policy."

The council, with ballot approval from voters, amended the city charter in 2007 to allow special meetings to be held outside City Hall.

"The council wants to make it easier for people to get to meetings, and make it a little less intimidating for people to address the council by holding meetings in less formal and more familiar settings," said city spokesman Mike Conway.

These special meetings will be held in addition to the regularly scheduled council meetings. The next meeting will be on Jan. 22 at City Hall. The meeting will be held on a Tuesday because of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday the day before.

Reporter Joshua Emerson Smith can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or jsmith@mercedsunstar.com.

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