2012-04-14 / News

Council debates when to debate

By Scott Rawdon

BUCKEYE LAKE – The time for public debate is during committee meetings, not council meetings, said members of the Buckeye Lake Village Council Monday night.

Resident Kay Allen asked council members how people who attend council meetings to ask questions of the council could receive a response when council members won’t directly answer questions during council meetings’ public comment period. “They say it doesn’t do no good to come down here,” she said.

It’s council’s policy to hear statements and questions from attendees during public comment period, but council members won’t immediately respond.

“(Council members) should answer people when they ask questions,” said former council member Donna Thompson. “Is there some way to get answers to questions from council?”

Mayor Rick Baker said he encourages people to attend committee meetings where their specific topic of interest is being discussed. “If you want some debate, that’s the place to do it,” he said. “We’ll talk as much as you want in committee.”

Council President Charlene Hayden said she has no problem discussing issues or answering questions outside of council meetings or immediately afterward. “I will not engage in banter during the meetings,” she said. Hayden said people tend to argue during the council meetings, which slows the meeting down and is inconsiderate to those who are attending the meeting as guests or for specific reasons. These people are forced to sit through long arguments. She said all council members are willing to answer questions.

Resident Bonnie Mansfield said she wasn’t pointing out anyone specifically, but, “People do have questions, they deserve answers.” She said she attends the committee meetings, but often in vain because occasionally not enough committee members will attend the meeting to have a quorum. “It takes a long time and it’s frustrating,” said Mansfield, who suggested council have a specific question and answer period.

Council member Clay Carroll read a statement he prepared addressing the subject. He was clear he was only speaking for himself. “It is really upsetting that when decisions need to be made most people don’t want to get involved or share their opinions until the ninth hour and then just want to complain about what the people who did get involved decide,” said Carroll. “To my knowledge there are no secret meetings conducted on any village issue. Almost everything is reviewed by committees before being presented to council.” He said committee meetings are publicly posted and he said believes that if someone wants to address a particular subject, someone from the village would be willing to notify that person when the issue goes to committee.

“These committee meetings are the time for banter, discussion, and, if really necessary, argument,” said Carroll. “A committee can conduct as many meetings as are necessary to reach a reasonable opinion on something before it goes to council.” He said he does not believe that council meetings are the time or place for banter because many people who attend the meetings are there for a particular item on the agenda and shouldn’t be forced to “sit through the minutia of things that should have been long put to rest at a committee meeting.”

Carroll said if a topic appears before council and it’s determined that additional is necessary then the topic should be referred back to committee for further discussion. “Time in the council meeting is set aside for ‘public comment’ not ‘let’s argue,’” he said. “I feel that council has an obligation to consider those comments and, if deemed necessary, send an item back to committee. It is not only unreasonable but unfair to expect any council member to make a split second response to a public comment without affording them the time to reflect on the comment and them hold them under scrutiny for their response.”

Carroll said public input in always important and the committee meeting is the place to present it.

Council member Patrick Brighton said council is working to hold committee meetings on the Monday evenings the council does not meet, unless an emergency meeting is necessary, so it’s easier for the public to attend. “That will only help the village,” he said.

In other council news:

• Buckeye Lake Planning and Zoning Commission Chair Karen Cookston told council that the commission is running into problems because the village currently does not have a director of development. Without that position, she said, some things are not being accomplished. Cookston said people who are looking to the commission to have projects approved are becoming frustrated. “It’s a pure lack of communication,” she said. Cookston said these problems are bad enough that they convinced a commission member to resign.

“I don’t know where to begin,” said Baker. He said he wished Cookston would’ve spoken to him before bringing the matter in front of council as the planning and zoning commission is part of the village administration. He said applicants to the commission are going through too long of a process.

Cookston said there is a lot of growth happening in the village now and wondered if there was any way a village staff member could help with some of the director of development duties for the time being.

Baker said he has a person in mind whom he hopes will take the director of development position.

Last year, Director of Development Valerie Hans became council clerk when the village hired Daniel Coffman as director of development among other duties. However, Coffman left the position to run for Licking County Commissioner and the position remains unfilled.

“We have a lot of things people want to do,” said Cookston. “Right now, we’re putting out fires – a lot of fires.”

• Council members agreed send the proposed utility superintendent’s position back to the personnel and finance committees to discuss the position’s duties and pay rate following a second reading of an ordinance to create the position. Council member Arletta Ruton opposed the move, as she believes the position’s starting pay of $45,000 is reasonable. Hayden agreed with Ruton, but didn’t want to stop additional discusssion if some council members believe it’s necessary.

Some residents and council members question the starting salary and/or the position itself. Some also believe the position should be posted rather than handed to the current water tech.

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