MASSENA – A change will be made to the public comment portion of the Massena Central School District School Board meetings.
On Thursday, board members agreed to provide a public comment session at the start of the meeting, with time restrictions but open to any type of discussion that did not go into great detail, such as staff.
Current policy allows for public expression following meetings. Thursday’s meeting lasted approximately 1 hour and 50 minutes.
The subject surfaced at the previous board meeting. Board member David LaClair Jr. said he preferred to allow public comment at the start of the meeting so that if any issues were raised they could be discussed by the board. The second comment period at the end of the meeting may give the audience more time to express themselves.
“Sir. LaClair at the end of our last meeting raised this issue before I even had a chance, that is, the idea of providing an initial public comment period at the start of our meeting. , and also one after we wrap up our work for the evening, “said Chairman of the Board Paul Haggett.” So basically two public comment sessions. “
Mr. Haggett, who shared Mr. LaClair’s sentiment, recalled that several people wanted to speak at the previous meeting.
“I think that’s a good idea,” Mr. Haggett. “We had a number of people who were at our last meeting who wanted to comment publicly on an issue that you know had pretty much already been decided by the time they were able to do so.”
He said, in his opinion, that it was “in the best interest of the way we do business to allow the public to speak at the beginning and then again at the end.” Mr Haggett said his only stipulation would be that the initial public comment period be only for items that are on that evening’s agenda.
“We could expand things further for the second public comment session, but that would be my idea on the first,” he said.
Board member Loren Fountaine said he supported an initial public comment period but did not believe two were necessary.
“I think having this one early and letting them talk about whatever they want would be nice,” Mr. Fountaine said. “I don’t see the need for two. Personally, I see no reason to limit comments to what’s on the agenda unless it becomes an issue. “
Board member Patricia Murphy agreed, saying her concern was that a second public comment period could result in lengthy meetings.
“Sometimes they take a very long time to start,” she said. “Everyone is tired. Everyone is pretty much ready to go.
She suggested that if people had items for future agendas that they wanted to discuss, they could write them down and ask District Clerk Angela Wilhelm to send them to council members electronically.
“So what would be your plan for the next meeting?” Asked Kevin Perretta, board member. “Should we cover each of these points at the next meeting?” “
“We’ll have to take a look,” Ms. Murphy said. “Are they related to things we’re going to be tackling anyway or are they sort of follow-up things?” I think we can just look at it and possibly have a discussion. “
Board member Timothy Hayes said he was also in favor of a public comment period at the start of the meeting.
“I think one is the way to go,” he said. “Most people don’t want to stay here until the end anyway, and they want to come to you. Some people are leaving. They would sit there all the time and never comment. I’ve seen this before because they shake their heads and walk out the door. You give them the opportunity to be heard in advance. But I don’t think they need to speak again later. I mean, here’s your comment period. If you want to do it, it’s now.
“I agree with that,” said vice chairman of the board, Amber Baines.
Mr. Haggett noted that the current public comment policy does not set any parameters for how long a person can speak.
“Was it three minutes?” Asked Mr. Perretta.
“No,” Haggett said. “We can have that written on the agenda, but as far as the policy goes, it’s not included.”
Board member Robert LeBlanc suggested setting a time limit.
“In order to avoid the hijacking of meetings, I would limit the time,” said Mr. LeBlanc. “They can contribute their topic, but they should be able to do it in about five minutes or whatever time we choose.”
Mr. Haggett, who chairs the district policy committee, suggested, and council members agreed, that the committee “make some adjustments that sort of reflect what we seem to have reached consensus on, namely a comment period, limiting the amount of time people can speak and have it at the start of the public council meeting.
Mr Perretta said he should also establish ground rules for the types of topics prohibited from public expression, such as discussions about certain people.
The current policy, which was revised and last adopted on March 24, 2019, can be found at http://wdt.me/xU8Vac.