Meadville Tribune

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March 17, 2013

SUNDAY ISSUE: Public not commenting on guidelines

MEADVILLE — The lack of formal public commentary has left the Crawford County Board of Commissioners a bit perplexed after a second draft of guidelines for public comment at the commissioners’ meetings and work sessions was posted on Tuesday.

“I thought we’d get more,” Commissioner Jack Lynch said Friday when asked if he was disappointed. “I hope we get some input.”

The changes from the first to second draft took public concerns into consideration by removing a requirement of three-day advance notice to address the board at meetings; and adding two public comment periods at meetings — one on agenda items at the start of the meeting and another on items of general county interest near the close of the meeting.

All three commissioners and Cheri Porter-Jackson, the county’s chief clerk, said they’ve not received any formal comment from the public since revised guidelines were posted formally on Tuesday.

“I’d like to hear more (from the public),” Chairman Francis Weiderspahn Jr. said Friday.

“We’ve incorporated changes (asked by the public and commissioners),” Commissioner C. Sherman Allen said of why he thought there has been a lack of additional comment. “Also, the rules can be waived by the chairman.”

The revised guidelines were posted Tuesday outside the commissioners’ meeting room at the Crawford County Courthouse in Meadville as well as on a bulletin board near the entrance to the courthouse for the next 30 days for public comment.

The new version of the guidelines also are available at the commissioners’ office at the courthouse; online at the county’s website and at The guidelines will be revised as necessary based on any public comment received, according to commissioners.

Crawford County isn’t the only local governmental body with guidelines for public comment at its meetings. Meadville City Council, Crawford Central School Board, West Mead Township and others have set up guidelines on public comment.

The commissioners hold public work sessions each Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. at the courthouse and formal public board meetings the first and third Thursday of each month at 9:30 a.m. The twice-monthly public board meetings are when the board takes official action on items such as paying bills, contracts and other items.

Under the guidelines, commissioners will allow an individual or group up to three minutes to ask questions about agenda items prior to the meeting. At the close of the meeting, a person may have 10 minutes to comment, while public participation will be limited to 30 minutes.

Commissioners said they welcome comment and have no concerns with public comment or questions at the weekly Tuesday work sessions.

The guidelines are to try to bring some order to their twice-monthly public board meetings and not inhibit public comment.

The current board of commissioners and the previous board of commissioners have been hit with questions from audience members on many agenda items as they come up for action at a meeting.

If no major revisions need to be made to the revamped guidelines, commissioners hope to put them in place for their April 18 meeting.

However, commissioners said if changes are made, the timetable for implementation would be delayed.

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