The online RCAP Resources Library has a variety of resources that are useful to small, rural drinking water and wastewater systems.
Are the meetings to take care of your community’s business just a casual get-together of the town “elders” at the local coffee shop? Do any meetings you attend feel disorganized, run too long, waste time, or avoid important discussions? Do your meetings not provide you with the necessary information you need to make important decisions affecting your community’s health and well-being?
If you are a member of the governing body of your community’s water system and your experience with meetings is anything like this, it’s time to think about changing how meetings are conducted. Governance meetings are a part of the management function of a utility and should be executed properly and in good order like the other parts of the utility – its financial records, complying with rules and regulations, its rate structure, etc. There are many things to consider when holding meetings, and we want to provide a few tips to get you started.
First, there may be some important legal matters to consider about your meetings. The rules for conducting your board meetings may be driven by state statutes depending upon the organization of your board (mutual domestics, nonprofit corporations, special districts, city or town utilities), so understand where your rules originate, and follow them.
The rules for conducting meetings should be in writing and followed at each meeting. These rules should include, among other items:
Meetings should be held on consistent days and times – the first Tuesday of each month at 7:00 p.m., for example. Being consistent makes it easier for board members to schedule their personal and professional lives around the meetings. It also and assures the public that you take governing the utility seriously and provides your customers with an opportunity to participate.
A written agenda covers the business to be discussed and should be sent to board members before the meeting. An agenda should contain the following items:
Reading and acceptance of the previous meeting’s minutes should be taken very seriously. Minutes are the legitimate record and legal proof of the board’s business decisions. Unfinished business is required to be discussed and voted upon before new business can be brought up. The new business element should contain enough information so that board members can think about the topic, obtain information about it, and be prepared for the meeting.
Because minutes are the legal record for board actions, accuracy is of the utmost importance. They should include:
To speed up the agenda a bit, your board may want to use a consent agenda for items that need to be voted upon but do not need further discussion. Common items on a consent agenda are approval of meeting minutes and acceptance of reports that are attached to the minutes, all in hard-copy form. Some boards use Robert’s Rules of Order, which is a way to structure how business is discussed, and these rules can be followed loosely or strictly.
This article is a condensed version of a section of The Big Guide for Small Systems: A Resource for Board Members. Produced by RCAP, this comprehensive guide is part how-to and part desk reference for new and veteran board members of small water and wastewater systems. The guide’s four sections – water treatment basics; regulatory responsibilities; handling board affairs; and financial duties and responsibilities – as well as the extensive glossary and appendices with many sample documents, help community leaders be better board members.