01/23/2014 07:05 EST | Updated 03/25/2014 05:59 EDT

Saskatoon reviewing the way it operates; administration wants committees

SASKATOON - Saskatoon is reviewing the way it operates.

City manager Murray Totland says there's a feeling that the city has outgrown its current governance model.

The administration is presenting council with a list of recommendations meant to streamline the way council operates.

He says there's an emphasis on unclogging the works at full meetings in favour of seeing more of the grunt work done by committees.

For example, one change would see people addressing council meetings restricted to items on that day's official agenda.

But Totland said that people with off-topic concerns would still have a forum to be heard.

The recommendations call for the creation of four new standing committees, each composed of five city councillors.

Those committees would be Transportation, Environment and Utilities, Finance and Corporate Services and Planning, Development and Community Services. Each committee would be chaired by a member of council selected through a vote.

Where someone has an issue that doesn't fit neatly into one committee's area of concern, Totland said other mechanisms would still be available.

The administration proposals call for the current executive committee composed of all councillors to stay in place. That committee would become something of a "catch-all" for issues not addressed by the other ones. Councillors would also have the option of making motions to have off-agenda items heard.

Totland said the model would be similar to the way the provincial legislature or Parliament works

Another move designed to get council meetings unstuck would see the committees given the power to make some decisions without having to go to full council votes.

Government affairs manager Mike Jordan said this is done routinely in other cities that the administration researched before drafting its recommendations.

"In Regina, for example, one of the things that they delegate to their public works committee is the ability for that committee to make bus shelter location decisions," he said. He said another example seen in jurisdictions like Winnipeg, Calgary and Edmonton was the ability for committees to make grants up to a fixed amount to approved lists of community groups out of a budget approved by council.

Totland and Jordan both said any decisions on delegating authority to the committees would be made by council -- and would likely be approached with caution as any eventual restructuring unfolded.

If adopted, the changes would be expected to go into effect in May.