Mack’s Guide to the Newtown Township Website. Lesson 1: How to Access Official Meeting Agendas and Minutes
Let's suppose you wish to attend an upcoming public meeting such as the next meeting of the Board of Supervisors (BOS) or Planning Commission or other official committee. But you want to make sure you know what’s on the agenda so that you don’t waste your time going to a meeting that won’t cover any issue you care about. This lesson will show you how to do that using the Newtown Township website. You can use the same steps to access the minutes and Zoom recordings of previous meetings.
EXTRA BONUS: The steps outlined here can also be used to access approved minutes and Zoom recordings of past meetings.
CAVEAT: This lesson, which was created on June 13, 2021, will show you how to get the agenda for any public meeting. If you are following the steps at a later date, what you see may be different than what's presented here, but the instructions remain valid no matter when you access the website. You might find it easier to view the video version embedded at the end of this post.
The first step, of course, is to go to the homepage, which is newtownpa.gov. You should see this nice page that includes a big scrolling video (Figure 1). Kind of cool, right? No other municipal website that I know of dedicates so much of its homepage to graphics.
In any case, you also see the main sections of the website: HOME, COMMUNITY, BUSINESS, GOVERNMENT, DEPARTMENTS, and CONTACT. Since the BOS is part of the Newtown government, it would be logical to click on “GOVERNMENT,” but I like to first see the calendar. You need to scroll down to see that.
Click on the down arrow and up will pop the bottom of the screen (see Figure 2). Very useful links and information here, but no calendar. You have to scroll further down to see that.
Further down the page, we see the column of “Upcoming Township Meetings.” Here you will see most – BUT NOT ALL – of the upcoming scheduled meetings. For example, I do not see any Board of Supervisors meeting listed here.
What you have to do is scroll further down until you see the calendar icon near the bottom of the screen. Click on that. Now you will see the “Newtown Township Calendar of Events and Meetings” (Figure 3).
If you scroll further down this screen you will see that there is a "BOARD OF SUPERVISORS ZOOM MEETING” scheduled for June 23, 2021. When you click on that you will see that this meeting will be on a Wednesday at 7 PM. It says the LOCATION is the Newtown Township Public Meeting Room, but that cannot be correct because this is a Zoom meeting.
There are also links here that allow you to add this meeting to your personal calendar. I don’t like to mess with that. What we want is to find is the agenda for this meeting, but I see no links to get me to that.
Maybe we should have clicked on the GOVERNMENT menu item on the top of the page and saved a lot of time! Let’s do that now. Actually, you only have to roll your mouse pointer over “GOVERNMENT” and you will see a menu pop up.
Whoops! I don’t see “Board of Supervisors” on the menu, so I guess we have to click on “Boards & Committees.” Actually, don’t click on it, just roll your mouse pointer over it and ANOTHER menu will pop up and lo and behold there’s “Board of Supervisors” as the number 2 choice.
What you have to do now is carefully roll your mouse pointer over to the second pop-up menu and click on “Board of Supervisors”. This will get you to the “Township Board of Supervisors” page (see the video at the end of this post).
BE CAREFUL: When moving your mouse pointer from one menu to a submenu it could venture outside the menu limits. If this happens, the menus will disappear and you will have to start over. This might be a problem for older people with less dexterity or experience with mouses.
On the Township Board of Supervisors page you learn that the BOS meets on the second and fourth Wednesday of every month. This is true, except when it isn’t, such as when a meeting is cancelled for some reason or another.
Anyway, you will see a list of past Zoom meetings and other information such as a link to watch previous meetings and the mission of the Board of Supervisors.
OK. Here’s a step-by-step guide on what you need to do to get to the agenda of the June 23 BOS meeting (see the video embedded at the end):
- Scroll down further on the Township Board of Supervisors page and you will see “Supervisor Meeting Minutes & Agendas.” This is what we need.
- Scroll further down and click on “2021”. There’s an information icon (the letter “i” in a circle) that you can click. But that just tells me when this item was created. Forget about that!
- Click on the highlighted “2021” menu item and you will see a number of choices. Again, this is useful non-agenda and non-minutes information such as the “Bills List” item, which will lead you to all the bills paid by the township in 2021!
- But we’re interested in finding the agenda for the June 23, 2021, meeting, so click on “Agendas.” You should see a list of 2021 meeting agendas to date.
Unfortunately, the agenda for the June 23, 2021, meeting is not yet available because most agendas are not posted until just a few days before the meeting. Actually, the law requires that the agendas – or at least public notices announcing the date, time, and location of official meetings – be posted no later than 24 hours before the meeting. The Board of Supervisors agendas are usually posted at the close of business on the Friday before the meeting. Thus, the agenda for the June 23, 2021, meeting will not be available until June 18.
Let's find a meeting that is closer to our search date (June 13, 2021). If we go back to the Calendar we see that there is Planning Commission meeting scheduled for June 15, 2021. Let’s try that.
First, click on “PLANNING COMMISSION ZOOM MEETING” in the Calendar. You will see the time and location – correctly noted as “Zoom” – for this meeting, and other “Event Details,” but no direct link to the agenda.
Let’s go to the Planning Commission page and see if we can find the agenda for the June 15, 2021 meeting there. Click on “Planning Commission page” under EVENT DETAILS in the Calendar. Unfortunately, you’ll need to roll you mouse pointer over items like this to realize that they are clickable.
The Planning Commission page looks very similar to the Township Board of Supervisors page. However, if you scroll down you do NOT see a “Meeting Minutes & Agendas” list as with the Supervisors page. This is true for every committee page.
In order to find agendas for upcoming meetings of any committee other than the Board of Supervisors, we need a different way of doing it. I’ll let you in on my secret way of accessing more information about upcoming meetings including agendas and minutes of past meetings PLUS the agenda of the next scheduled meeting (if we are lucky).
- Go back to the top of the page and open/click on the GOVERNMENT menu.
- Click on “Minutes & Agendas.” This is the door to the magic kigdom of agendas and minutes!
- Scroll down the list until you find the board, committee, or commission you are interested in. In this case, click on “Planning Commission.” It may require two clicks before it works.
Now we can follow the same procedure we followed with the Board of Supervisors:
- Pick the year you are interested in; i.e., 2021. Click/double click on that.
- You now should see just 3 folders: Agendas, Minutes, Zoom Meetings. You might think to click on the latter, but don’t unless you want see the archive of PAST Zoom meetings. Click on “Agendas.” BONUS: Obviously, from here you can also access approved minutes and Zoom recordings of past meetings.
- Aha! There it is at the bottoem of the list! It's a file titled “06 June 15.pdf” (ignore the “06” in the name – it’s a mystery). Click on that and you finally see the agenda, which you can download to your computer (see the video at the end of this post to see how to do this). It may take a few moments to load – have patience. This is a Google function we are working with and who knows what evil lurks there!
Just SIX not so “easy” steps. I’m sure, however, that once you do this 5 or 6 times. It will be second nature!
UNFORTUNATELY, this is the ONLY way you can get the login information you need to join the Zoom meetings, like this one for the Planning Commission. For live meetings, you just show up; i.e., get dressed nicely, drive to the township municipal building, park, and walk in to take a seat.
NOTE: When you attend live committee meetings, try to sit close to the committee members if you wish to hear them. For some reason, only televised Board of Supervisors meetings use the speakers in the room so that members of the public sitting at the back can hear what’s going on.
As COVID-19 restrictions are being eased or lifted entirely and as more people are fully vaccinated, townships are planning to return to live in-person meetings or are already hosting hybrid in-person/online public meetings (read "Incorporating Zoom Into Live BOS Meetings" and "Middletown Township Hosts Successful "Hybrid" Public Meetings").
This survey asks your opinion regarding whether or not townships such as Newtown should implement hybrid public meetings where officials meet in person as before COVID-19 but the public has the option to participate remotely via Zoom (or other technology) or in person.
No identifying information is collected via this survey unless you opt-in to provide such information for purposes of follow-up by subscribing to John Mack's email newsletter. After completing this 2-minute survey, you will be able to see a de-identified summary of the results to date.
DISCLAIMER: This is not an official Newtown Township approved survey. Its purpose is solely to inform John Mack – a Newtown Supervisor – of the public’s opinion regarding this issue.
View the Video
An Easier Way
Now that you know my secret, let me tell you another secret. I do all this work for you so you do not have to. Just visit the “Upcoming Meetings” on my website.
Better yet – subscribe to my email notification/newsletter service. I sent out notifications of upcoming meetings once or twice a month depending on activity. Subscribe here.
Posted on 13 Jun 2021, 11:09 - Category: Communication