Board debates allowing more comment time

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PARIS – Selectmen voted against expanding the extent of citizens’ comments during their meetings on Monday, but the issue is likely to return in the future.

During the citizens’ comments portion of Monday’s selectmen’s meeting, Selectman David Ivey motioned to allow citizens to comment during each agenda item of the evening, on the condition that the comments would relate only to that item.

“Courtesy is of the utmost importance,” he added.

The motion was seconded by Glen Young, who, along with Ivey, was voted onto the board during the June elections. This opened discussion of the motion.

Selectman Raymond Glover disagreed with the motion, and said that it was technically out of order.

“You’re just opening up the meeting to a public forum, and this is a business meeting,” said Glover.

“I think we’d be here for days,” said Selectman Gerald Kilgore.

Town Manager Sharon Jackson also voiced her disagreement with the motion. Ernest Fitts III, acting as chairman of the board for his first meeting, recommended that the motion be tabled until after a review of the board’s bylaws.

As the motion was already on the table, a vote was required. Ivey’s motion failed 3-2, with Fitts, Glover, and Kilgore voting against it and Ivey and Young voting for it.

After the vote, Jackson agreed that the motion had been out of order. Fitts noted a decision at a prior meeting that the selectmen could not introduce motions during the citizens’ comments portion of the meeting.

Fitts may have been referring to a June 11 meeting, in which he and then-Selectman William Merrill put forward a motion during a tumultuous citizens’ comments discussion focusing on the removal of political signs from utility poles. Barbara Payne, then chairwoman of the board, refused to act on the motion, saying that the portion of the meeting was for citizens’ comments only.

Present as a citizen at Monday’s meeting, Payne criticized Ivey’s motion as “behind the scenes or under the table” activity from the board.

Discussion of the sign issue was resurrected during the citizens’ comments, with Ron Fitts and Franca Ainsworth asking what the town’s policy was on posting signs on utility poles. Ainsworth noted the safety hazard of several planks posted on a pole near Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School.

Jackson said she had contacted Central Maine Power Co. following the June meeting, and that they had emphasized that posting signs on poles is illegal. She was instructed to inform any people asking to post signs on utility poles that the practice was illegal.

Fitts asked whether removal of the signs would be the responsibility of the town or the police department, and also questioned whether Paris would be the first town to start enforcing the issue. Jackson said several towns had taken up the issue, but was not sure who would take down the signs.

Ivey asked if the town had broken the law when it put road posting signs on the poles. Jackson said the town had been allowed to post those signs.

For all the talk of utility poles, the approval of a pole location permit for CMP passed without a word of discussion. Jackson said the town needed to grant the permit in order to allow CMP to install utility poles in the town.

The board will review its bylaws, establishing procedures for the meetings, for possible revision. Glover suggested a modification to prepare for the possibility of a vacancy. He also suggested that the board should take another vote for a chair or vice-chair if either position was vacated.

The board also accepted the resignation of William Kerr from the recreation committee.

The next meeting of the Paris selectmen will take place at 7 p.m. on July 23 at the Paris Town Office.

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