The Person County Board of Commissioners unanimously codified its rules and procedures for public comment at its two monthly meetings.
Under state law, the commissioners are required to provide at least one period of public comment each month.
The board currently allocates 10 minutes at each of its two monthly meetings for informal comments.
The proposed rules and procedures would codify several things the commissioners currently do, like asking speakers to register with the Clerk to the Board before the meeting, addressing the entire board instead of one member and noting that there will not be an immediate, direct response from the commissioners to the speakers.
The list of rules and procedures adds two new items.
Under the proposed list, speakers would no longer be allowed to yield their allotted time to another speaker and if the 10 minutes expire before all registered citizens have spoken, the remaining speakers would carry over to the commissioners’ next meeting rather than speaking at the meeting they signed up at.
The proposed rules state that the commissioners would be able to extend the comment period as they see fit.
“We wanted to clarify the comment rules and procedure,” Board chair Gordon Powell said. “We’ve had some discussions over the past months and years about public comment. I think generally we as a public have somewhat of a common understanding of policy and procedure, civility and decorum in a meeting that should be respected and conducted likewise. To clarify that to the public, we just wanted to have a statement that’s available both online as well as copies here in this room so that when we have a meeting, we can clarify to the public what we expect when people come to address this board. That’s all this is about. It’s not a control factor. It is a public meeting. It’s not here to criticize individuals. If people want to come as they did tonight and share their opinions on solar farms or whatever the issue may be, that’s what the public comment period is all about.”
County Attorney Ellis Hankins noted that the commissioners can also add a partial content restriction to limit comments to what the commissioners have jurisdiction over.
Hankins drafted an additional line for the rules and procedures that limits comments to items “arguably within the county’s jurisdiction and scope of authority.”
Hankins added that the board chair would have the authority to enforce the rules.
The commissioners unanimously adopted the rules and procedures with the amended line.
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