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Public comments at Council meetings to be limited

The Sunnyside City Council agreed this past Monday night to a change in procedures for its meetings.

The change involves the format for allowing public comment on non-agenda items. Currently, Council allows two public comment periods, one at the beginning and one at the end of each meeting. Under a new format, proposed by City Manager Bob Stockwell, Council will allow for only one public comment period, which will be towards the end of each meeting.

Council is expected to formally adopt the change in the rules of procedure at its July 26 meeting.

Stockwell said he proposed the change because it would help make the meetings more efficient. Stockwell mentioned that while Council is limiting the amount of time each person can speak to five minutes, which is the current limit that is supposed to be enforced for public comment, there is no desire not to hear from community members.

The public comment period will be limited to five minutes for both agenda and non-agenda items.

Stockwell had originally wanted to limit the time for public comment to three minutes, but Mayor Pro-tem Mike Farmer felt the time should be extended to five minutes, especially for comment on agenda items. Farmer said he felt three minutes provided too much of a limitation for people.

"I think three minutes is intimidating to people," added Councilman Don Vlieger.

Stockwell also suggested that Council eliminate asking people to give their address when making public comment. Stockwell said there are concerns over privacy issues. Mayor Ed Prilucik, though, said he liked the idea of asking people to give their address because it allowed the city to get in contact with each individual person. Council agreed to give citizens, as it currently does, the option to not include their address when providing public comment. However, Council will ask residents to say if they live in Sunnyside or not.

At the suggestion of Councilman Jim Restucci, Council agreed to move the public comment portion for non-agenda items to the end of the meeting. Restucci said that many times Council has staff from other agencies on hand to make reports. Restucci said it is costing taxpayers money to have these people sit through the public comment portion of the meeting. Restucci also hoped that people would bring more of their concerns to city staff, which in turn would bring the issues before Council.

Council also agreed to a recommendation from Stockwell to include more items under the consent agenda. Stockwell pointed out on Monday night's agenda a couple of items that had already been discussed at previous meetings, which could have easily been placed under the consent agenda. Stockwell said any items under the consent agenda can be pulled from approval for further discussion. Stockwell said this method will make for a more efficient Council meeting.

. Mike Kantman can be contacted at (509) 837-4500, or email him at mkantman@eaglenewspapers.com

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