Guide to a Township Council Meeting
Welcome to a West Windsor Township Council meeting. This brochure has been prepared to help you share your ideas and concerns with the Township Council and to explain how the meeting agenda operates.
The five-member Township Council is the legislative body of municipal government. As such the Council is responsible for enacting our local ordinances (laws), adopting the budget, and setting Council policy through the passage of resolutions. The Council President chairs the meetings.
SETTING THE MEETING AGENDA
The agenda is prepared by the Council President and the Township Clerk with items proposed by the Township Council and the Administration. Prior to the meeting, the agenda is posted in the municipal building and on the web site and mailed to those who request it.
Public comment is a very important part of the Township Council's proceedings. Opportunities to comment occur during Township Council Business Meetings which follow a formal agenda. Public comment is invited on three occasions during the meeting:
- After the opening formalities, the public is invited to make initial brief comments on public issues and concerns.
- Public hearings occur during the meeting and at that time comments from members of the audience are accepted on those specific matters which have been published previously.
- At the conclusion of the business meeting, additional open public comment is permitted.
When addressing the Council, the Council requests that the public observe the following procedures to ensure that every citizen is treated courteously and has an opportunity to speak:
- Come forward to the podium when you speak.
- When recognized by the Chair, state your name and address for the official record before directing your question or comment to the presiding officer.
ORDER OF THE AGENDA
The list below indicates the order followed by the Township Council during the Business Meeting.
- Call to Order: 7:00 p.m.
- Statement of Adequate Notice This statement advises that notice of the meeting has been provided to newspapers and posted in the Municipal Building in accordance with the NJ Open Public Meetings Act ("Sunshine Law").
- Salute to the Flag
- Ceremonial Matters or Topic of Priority Consideration. Presentations, Proclamations, Awards, Guest Introductions
- Public Comment (30 minute comment period - 3-minute limit per person)
- Administration Comments
- Council Member Comments
- Chair/Clerk's Comments
- Public Hearings
This is the opportunity for the public to comment on and question specific ordinances (laws) and other items requiring "public hearing" which have been published in advance.
- Consent Agenda
Matters listed under the Consent Agenda (Resolutions, Minutes, Bills and Claims) are considered to be routine and may be enacted by one motion and one vote. If discussion is desired by a Council Member, the item will be removed from the Consent Agenda, and the item will be considered separately. If a member of the public wishes to raise a question concerning an item on the Consent Agenda, a sign-up sheet is provided at the rear of the room. The public should indicate the Consent Agenda item on which they have a specific question.
- Items Removed from Consent Agenda
- Recommendations from Administration and Council/Clerk
- Introduction of Ordinances
- Additional Public Comment (3-minute limit per person)
- Council Reports/Discussion/New Business
- Administration Updates
- CLOSED SESSION (if needed)
THE THREE TYPES OF COUNCIL MEETINGS
The Council carries out their duties at public meetings. There are three types of Council meetings each of which has a different function and varies in its degree of public access and participation.
- Business Meetings: Business meetings are where the legislation is voted upon and enacted, and where the main workings of the Council are carried out. By law, business meetings are open to the public and the public is invited and encouraged to participate where appropriate.
- Work Sessions: Work Sessions will be utilized for the discussion of policy or similar matters and will be scheduled and/or retained as the Council sees fit. There will be public comment period, the timing and duration of which shall be at the discretion of the Council; comments are limited to three minutes per person. Action may be taken if it is noticed to be considered.
Scheduled work sessions may also be used for those matters that, of necessity, must be considered in closed sessions, and therefore provide for closed session meetings on other than regularly scheduled business session evenings.
- Closed Sessions: Certain discussions relating to such topics as personnel, contract negotiations, or litigation are held in “closed” session. Neither public attendance nor input is permitted, but the public must be notified that the session is held and provision will be made for public comment before or after the closed portion takes place.
TOWNSHIP COUNCIL HISTORY AND ORGANIZATION West Windsor Township was established by an Act of the N.J. legislature on Feb. 9, 1797 and the Township was governed by a Township Committee which had both executive & legislative authority until 1993. In November of 1992 West Windsor residents voted to change their form of government from a Township Committee to a Mayor-Council form. The new government was elected in May of 1993 and took office July 1, 1993.
In the new Mayor-Council form of government the Mayor and Council function as independent branches of government. The Mayor is the Chief Executive of the Township and heads its Administration. The Mayor can choose to attend or not attend Council meetings.
The Council is the legislative branch. The five members of the Township Council are elected on a non-partisan basis for four-year, staggered terms. At the annual organizational meeting held during the first week of January of each year, the Council elects a President and Vice President to serve for one-year terms.