COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Columbus City Manager Isaiah Hugley is looking at ways to adjust the city council’s public agenda time.
The public agenda portion of the city council meeting is time set aside for residents to make requests of the council, and discuss issues important to them. Residents are given 10 minutes to make their case to the council. While many use the time only when something is needed, others approach the council week after week on a variety of issues.
“When we had to do the transit projects update, I had to delay it for five consecutive meetings before we could work it in,” said Hugley. His statements underscore the problems the lengthy portion of the meeting can cause.
"They have to be able to address council," said Mayor Elect Skip Henderson. "...but we are conducting business on behalf of the citizens and when it goes as long as it did last week it can get kind of tough."
During last week’s council meeting, Mayor Teresa Tomlinson apologized to one scheduled presenter for their extended wait due to the several hours- long public agenda. “Not only have you waited five hours, last time you waited three hours,” said Tomlinson.
This issue is not one Columbus is facing alone. The new city council in Auburn has just changed rules regarding its citizens communication time, the equivalent to Columbus' public agenda. In Auburn, citizens can now only address council during the citizens communication, which occurs early in the meeting, if they are discussing an item on the agenda. A new portion of the meeting, citizens open forum, was added to the end of the agenda. In the open forum citizens can speak about any topic for three minutes.
When asked if he had any thoughts on what should be done to alleviate the issues created by lengthy public agendas, Mayor-elect Skip Henderson is considering a policy similar to what Auburn has done.
“Maybe we go to three minutes and then give them about two minutes to wrap it up so you still have about five minutes on public agenda. Then, anyone that wants to talk about an initiative or invite the council to something could be done at the end of the meeting after the Clerk’s agenda.”
Henderson says that is only an idea and would want to talk with council members about their thoughts on the matter.
Council member Judy Thomas urged council to allow the next administration do handle the issue.
Hugley is discussing possible changes with council and will present his recommendations at a future council meeting.