Meadville Tribune

Local News

February 13, 2013

New public comment rules at commissioners meetings to be reviewed

MEADVILLE — New guidelines for public participation at Crawford County commissioners’ meetings will be reviewed next week by commissioners.

At Tuesday’s weekly public work session for commissioners, Francis Weiderspahn Jr., commissioner chairman, said new guidelines would be reviewed by the board at next Tuesday’s work session.

Weiderspahn said the guidelines still are being formed and commissioners have been in contact with other municipalities and agencies about their public participation policies.

The proposed guidelines are expected to be presented at the commissioners’ next public work session on Tuesday, Weiderspahn said.

For months at Thursday board meetings, both the current board of commissioners that took office in January 2012 as well as the previous board of commissioners have been besieged at times with questions from audience members on many agenda items as they come up for action at a meeting.

Since the new board of county commissioners took office in January 2012, it has been discussing putting a public participation policy in place.

At their Aug. 16, 2012, meeting, commissioners voted 2-1 to have Ted Watts, the county’s attorney, refine draft guidelines governing public participation at the commissioners’ twice-monthly public meetings.

Republican commissioners Weiderspahn and Jack Lynch voted for having Watts refine guidelines while Democrat Commissioner C. Sherman Allen voted against it, citing concerns it would limit public access.

The Board of Commissioners does have a notation on its twice-monthly Thursday meeting agendas that public comment is limited to five minutes per speaker.

Commissioners have said the time limitations are for efficiency in running the twice-monthly board meetings.

Commissioners have said they welcome public input at their weekly work sessions Tuesdays at 9:30 a.m. at the courthouse in Meadville and have no intention of limiting any public input at work sessions.

Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at kgushard@meadvilletribune.com.

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