by Dennis Dalman
People who want to speak concerns to the Sartell City Council can now do so without having to register earlier in the day at city hall.
They can register right before stepping up to the microphone. In addition, they will be allowed to discuss any of the topics that happen to be on that particular evening’s council agenda.
At its Jan. 27 meeting, the city council unanimously agreed to amend its “Open Forum” policy.
Almost three years ago, the council decided to reserve some time before council business begins to allow anybody to address the council with concerns, questions or complaints. During that time, dubbed Open Forum, a person could talk for up to two minutes but could not discuss any agenda item because such items were scheduled for later in the evening and so it would not be appropriate for council members to discuss those items before their time on the agenda schedule.
It was very rare, during the past two years, that anyone would avail themselves of the Open Forum, though occasionally someone would.
Last year, the policy caused a lot of confusion and misunderstandings by people who wanted to say something at Open Forum sessions. For example, some who wanted to speak were not allowed to because they had not signed up earlier at city hall, which closes at 4:30 p.m. Council meetings meet at 7 p.m. the second and fourth Mondays of the month. Some would-be speakers were also perplexed about not being able to discuss items on that evening’s agenda.
The new policy, the council agreed, should make it easier for people to speak freely. Signing up right before the meeting begins and being able to talk about agenda items should be a big help, council members decided.
However, when speakers bring up agenda topics of that night’s meeting, council members will not be able to address a speaker’s comments. Instead, the speaker will be told the concern, question or complaint will be referred to city staff who can then contact the speaker later.
In addition, the mayor will remind each speaker about that fact and that he or she has “about” two minutes to speak.