The regular September Hampstead council meeting, as has become the norm, started late again last Tuesday, this time 25 minutes past the scheduled 8 p.m. time.
The Aug. 31 special meeting, which lasted less than three minutes, started on time, but a previous special meeting held on Aug. 18 started a whopping 35 minutes late — the latest of any council meeting in at least 14 years. In many cases, meetings start as much as 20 minutes late.
When the Sept. 8 meeting began at 8:25 p.m., Mayor William Steinberg apologized for the late start. But residents again asked why the meeting did not start on time.
"We do our best to start on time," Steinberg replied to an anonymous questioner. "But there are important issues we're discussing in caucus and there's no way I can know ahead of time how long those discussions will take. I assure you, the councillors don't particularly want to spend any more time than they have to, but we are diligent, we do our jobs properly and time has to be spent. A meeting will never start more than half an hour late, because legally we can't start more than a half-hour late."
As mentioned, the Aug. 18 meeting started 35 minutes late — that was a special meeting.
Steinberg was also asked if in-person meetings will resume. He said they will, "but not when there's going to be a risk to the public during COVID.
"We're going to err on the side of caution. We have some councillors who have medical issues, certainly we have some who are a certain age and we have many residents who are a certain age too or have medical conditions, and we don't want to have to limit our meetings to only the youngest and the most fit. The meetings will resume in public, but I can't tell you when."
Council regular Adriana Decker also brought up the meeting's late start.
"As you seem to never be able to start on time, why don't you schedule the meeting for 8:30 p.m., and you meet earlier, at 8 p.m. or some [other time]," she asked via a note to the videoconferenced meeting. "It's really not respectful to do this, it's once a month. Can something be done, please?"
Steinberg responded that caucus meetings normally start at 7 p.m. on the day of council meetings.
"If we have an 8 p.m. meeting, sometimes they start even earlier, and as I said to the anonymous questioner, there is nothing more we can do about that."