PARIS — The Board of Selectmen fielded questions Monday about public input in two new items on the board’s regular meetings agenda.
Town Clerk Elizabeth Knox said a selectmen’s general discussion workshop, which takes place after the adjournment of the regular meeting, first appeared on the agenda on April 12. It was followed on April 26 by an agenda item for selectmen’s comments or concerns, which takes place before adjournment of the regular meeting. Neither one allows for public comment.
Chairman Raymond Glover said that the workshop is for “informal discussion and planning and forward thinking.”
Knox said the board discusses different priorities that come under their jurisdiction, with a list of items including a capital improvement plan and upgrading the storm water runoff system.
Glover said the workshops are open to the public, but he was reluctant to allow the public to comment.
“I’d rather limit the public to specific citizens’ comments and any public hearings that are held specifically for public input,” he said. “I don’t want to hold open town meetings every other meeting that we have.”
Resident Kathy Richardson questioned the need for a separate item for selectmen’s concerns. She said that since board meetings operate as work sessions, the members should be able to raise any questions or concerns they have during the course of the meeting.
“If there are topics that individuals wish to address beyond the discussions and the citizens’ comments, like every other citizen who wishes to raise a point, would it not also be appropriate for select board members to have their item or question put openly on the agenda before the appropriate deadline just like everybody else?” she asked.
Richardson said the agenda item could also be used to avoid public comment on an issue. She said that since the section of the meeting comes after a section set aside for public comment, a selectman could introduce an item without input from residents at the meeting.
Selectman Ted Kurtz said the item adds greater structure to the meeting while also including the public.
Glover said the selectmen’s comments and workshop were added to the agenda after Town Manager Phil Tarr thought that the structure of the meeting would not allow the board to hear of any concerns or ideas that had not been approved for the agenda. Tarr said the item for selectmen’s comments and concerns allows the board to make a request for matters that arise during the citizens’ comments or other portions of the meeting.
“You will find, I believe, that given a chance, this type of approach works very well, although I have to admit I did not consult with the board first to see if they would like it,” he said. “But more so in the spirit of trying to help with communications of the board to you and vice-versa, it could be good for the town.”
Knox said the selectmen’s comments item is similar to the existing citizens’ comments section. She said workshops allow the board to review ideas and possibly come to consensus. The board is not allowed to take a vote in either section, as an agenda item is needed for such action to occur.
Resident Jack Richardson said public comment at the workshops would be beneficial to allow more input on the issues of the town.
“I would ask that you put out a call to the citizens of the community to come together with you at this workshop to give you ideas about what needs to be done in the town,” he said.