Meadville Tribune

Local News

March 13, 2013

County changes draft of participation policy

MEADVILLE — A change to requests in advance to be placed on the agenda and two sessions of public comment with a lengthier time for individual comment are among changes in a new draft of public comment guidelines for the Crawford County Board of Commissioners’ meetings.

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 will be revised as necessary based on public comment received, according to commissioners.

The full text of the revised guidelines is also posted at meadvilletribune.com.

Crawford County Board of Commissioners have been developing public participation guidelines for the board’s weekly work sessions and its twice-monthly meetings.

Public work sessions are held 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.

Commissioners plan to 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 aren’t trying to inhibit public comment but want order at their twice-monthly public board meetings.

Commissioners welcome comment and have no concerns with public comment or questions at the weekly Tuesday work sessions, according to Chairman Francis Weiderspahn Jr. Commissioners have no plans to limit public comment at work sessions, he said.

Revisions to the public participation guidelines at the twice-monthly Crawford County Board of Commissioners public meetings are:

n Changing notification to be on the agenda from three days prior to the meeting to just contacting the chief clerk in advance of the meeting.

n Two sessions of public comment. One is on agenda items at the beginning of the meeting and another is on general interest at or near the conclusion of the meeting.

At the beginning of the meeting, a person or group will be granted three minutes on agenda items.

At the conclusion of the meeting, a person will be limited to 10 minutes of comment, up from five minutes previously. The time limit may be waived by the chairman.

However, some provisions from the previous draft remain in place:

n Public participation will be limited to 30 minutes total at the conclusion of the meeting.

n No person may speak more than once on the same topic during the meeting.

n Commissioners retain the right to refuse permission to any individual to speak at a regular meeting to address the same subject matter discussed at a previous meeting.

When it took office in January 2012, the board of commissioners said it would consider enacting a written policy on public participation.

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

Commissioners are hoping to have the public participation guidelines in place in April.

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