by Dennis Dalman
Five women wanted to address the Sartell City Council Monday night, but they were not allowed to because they had not registered, according to the rules, for the “Open Forum/Public Comment” portion of the agenda.
The women had intended to use two minutes each to tell the council how much they are in favor of a proposal for a community center, which was also the topic of a special presentation later that evening. Also, according to the rules, people who want to speak during the Open Forum part of the agenda are not allowed to bring up topics that will be discussed later at that particular meeting.
When one of the women raised her hand to indicate her intention to talk, Sartell City Administrator Patti Gartland regretfully told the women that to be part of the “Open Forum” on the agenda, people must call city hall to register their intention to do that by at least 4:30 p.m. on the day of a council meeting.
The women had assumed they could just show up and be allowed to talk.
About two years ago, the council decided to add the Open Forum time at the very beginning of each council meeting so as to give any resident a chance to share any questions, concerns or comments about any topic. Up to five speakers, if they are registered first, can take up to two minutes each to talk.
That Open Forum option has almost never been used, except maybe once or twice, since it was introduced as an option.
Gartland told the five women they would be more than welcome to express their opinions during a public hearing, but there was no such public hearing at the Aug. 27 council meeting. Council members, too, showing signs of obvious sympathy, told the five women the council must abide by its protocol and not create a precedent regarding the Open Forum agenda option.
Anyone who wants to address the council should call Sartell City Hall to let staff there know of the intention to speak during the Open Forum portion. Call at least by 4:30 p.m. on the day of the council meeting. The number of city hall is 253-2171.