Selectmen ponder placement of public comment

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

Next Tuesday, Bridgton Selectmen will be considering whether to move their public comment portion of the agenda to the beginning of their meetings.

The board was absent one member, Paul Hoyt, when the issue came up Aug. 26, so they decided to table any action until there was a full board.

Resident Bob Casimiro formally asked the board to consider the change to their rules and procedures, saying “It’s very inconvenient” for residents who have to wait for at least an hour before they can make a public comment. Casimiro also objects to the board’s requirement that residents submit their comments in writing the Wednesday before the next Tuesday meeting in order to be allowed to speak — but he isn’t pushing for any change on that point.

Casimiro said having public comments and presentations at, or near, the beginning of the meeting works well in Naples, Westbrook and South Portland meetings. He also is suggesting that two public comment slots be included on agendas, to better accommodate resident schedules.

Both Selectman Doug Taft and Chairman Bernie King are not in favor of changing the agenda, saying they haven’t seen any issues with the public with the present format, of having the public comment period near the end of the agenda, after the 6 p.m. public hearings have been held.

But members Ken Murphy and Bob McHatton thought there was merit to Casimiro’s suggestion.

“Years ago, we never had public comment, then we saw it on a school agenda, and we added it to the beginning of the meetings,” McHatton said. “If it’s a short-term item, we can take care of it” for the resident, he said, who would then not need to stay for the entire meeting. “I feel that public participation belongs at the beginning of the meeting.”

Murphy agreed, saying, I don’t want to see someone waiting here two hours just to make a comment.”

King noted, however, that since the board decided to change the starting time of the meetings to 5 p.m., it was thought that many residents wouldn’t be able to make the beginnings of meetings because of work.

Taft was opposed to tabling the matter, but the motion passed, 3-1.


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