Ellerbe moves public comment period to start of meetings

By Matt Harrelson

March 4, 2014

By Matt Harrelson

There will be a slight change to the beginning of Ellerbe’s Town Council meeting Monday night at Town Hall.

Starting with the March monthly meeting, which was pushed back to next week after icy conditions developed two nights ago, the Ellerbe Town Council will begin their meetings at 7:15 p.m. —15 minutes earlier than usual.

The reason for this is “citizen time,” or the public comment period afforded by elected bodies for constituents to speak on agenda issues or express concern on any number of topics.

At February’s meeting, Councilwoman Jean Fletcher made a motion to have the citizen time portion of the session moved from the end of the meeting to the beginning, and the motion passed easily.

“We were talking about it if we got it done before the business,” said Fletcher. “That’s when it came up between council members.”

The idea, Fletcher said, is to “let residents speak about anything going on in Ellerbe.”

Ellerbe Mayor Lee Berry decided on a time of 15 minutes, said Fletcher.

“The council brought it up and wanted to do it to create some type of time frame to keep it from being so lengthy,” said Berry.

Random residents wanting to discuss something is what this 15 minutes is designed for, said Berry. Anyone looking for a lengthier discussion can be put on the agenda.

“If we need to talk about something more serious then we’ll put you on the podium,” said Berry.

Ellerbe Mayor Pro Tem Archie Robinson said the council was trying to emulate the Richmond County Commissioners and other public bodies that put the public comment period at the beginning of meetings.

“We were the only ones still doing it (citizen time) after the meeting,” said Robinson.

Fellow Councilman John Sears Jr. sees the new format as a better way to plan.

“I never did agree with citizen’s time because we would get questions we weren’t prepared for,” said Sears. “We recommend to call and get on the agenda so we could try and have an answer for them. If we have some idea of what the questions will be then the meeting will run smoother. We’re more prepared for the questions.”

Starting the meeting at 7:15 p.m. not only will allow more time for residence to voice their concerns and questions but will reduce some time off the ends of the monthly meetings.

“It’s already kind of late to meet at 7:30 so when the meeting carries on, we can close it earlier but give the public ample time to speak,” said Berry. “The public will still have time to speak. We’re going to extend it if we have to so they can get their point across.”

Ellerbe Town Council will meet Monday night at 7:15 p.m. at Ellerbe Town Hall, 108 West Page St., Ellerbe. The Town Council meets the first Monday of each month.