05/16/12 — Commission sets specific time for public comment

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Commission sets specific time for public comment

By Steve Herring
Published in News on May 16, 2012 1:46 PM

Wayne County commissioners, with little comment among themselves, agreed Tuesday to devote a specific time during their meetings for public comments.

Currently, a public comment period is tacked onto the end of the board's agenda. But now, rather than having to wait until whatever time the board wraps up its work, those seeking to address the commissioners will be able to do so starting at 10 a.m.

The change will become effective at the board's June 5 session.

Establishing a specific time will not affect the board's policy regarding public comment, Chairman John Bell said.

There has been a push by some from the public and the board's two Republican members, Steve Keen and Ray Mayo, to change the commissioners' policy of limiting speakers to three minutes once a month and requiring a group of people speaking for or against the same topic to choose one person to speak for the group.

That policy was not mentioned during Tuesday's meeting, but Keen made the motion to establish the 10 a.m. public comment time. It was approved 6-0. Commissioner J.D. Evans did not attend the meeting because of an illness.

Setting a specific time for public comment was not on the board's Tuesday agenda, but was brought up by Bell as the commissioners' agenda briefing was breaking up.

There was no discussion when the issue came up during the formal meeting.

The suggestion for assigning a specific time for public comment was actually made at the board's May 1 session by county school board member Arnold Flowers.

During that meeting, Flowers, a former commissioner, said that the school board has a specific time on its agenda for public comment, which is more convenient for people wanting to address the board.

"It was brought up by former commissioner Arnold Flowers about people not knowing when they could come and make comments," Bell said after Tuesday's meeting. "So we wanted to set a specific time so people will know that if 'I am there at 10 o'clock, I will be able to make comments,' rather than sitting there through the whole meeting and waiting.

"I decided to bring it up because it was brought up at our last meeting. We just wanted to square it away. Nobody had any problem with it before. A couple of people mentioned it just in passing, but the first time that we discussed it was when I brought it up today."