Grantsville City leaders will try to hammer out a proficient way to receive public comment during a work meeting on March 27.
“Grantsville City has not set up a public comment procedure. That is what the council is working on,” said Grantsville City Attorney Brett Coombs.
The City Council and Mayor Brent Marshall discussed adopting procedures during a council meeting on Feb. 20.
Council members agree that receiving input from citizens is essential.
“I think it is always good to hear public comment,” said Councilman Scott Stice. “The public should feel comfortable that the council hears their concerns. The council needs comments on both sides of the issues. Public comment helps to calibrate our ideas.”
Councilman Jeff Hutchins said the mayor has asked the council for feedback.
“We will work to agree on rules of procedures and order for ongoing City Council meetings, which we currently don’t have,” Hutchins said. “I personally want to hear from citizens. I value their feedback.”
One issue is whether to have a public comment period during the first part of meetings or at the end or both.
“Personally, I find it helpful to listen to comments at the start and at the end of meetings,” said Councilwoman Jewel Allen.
“At the start to help me with decisions and at the end so I can hear how things went whether positive or negative,” she said. “Sometimes people just want to vent and that’s OK.”
Allen said few people attend meetings unless there is a topic they are passionate about.
“I know that people can email council members individually, but if they take the time to come to a meeting, they should have some time to speak,” she said. “If there were a lot of people who wanted to speak, we could limit the time so the meeting doesn’t last too long.”
Councilman Neil Critchlow would also like a public comment period at the start of meetings and at the end.
“Most people feel comfortable enough to call me,” he said. “I do think citizens want to have a chance to speak out for or against issues. I think it is very important and a right we should have as citizens.”
Stice said he prefers a public comment period at the start of meetings.
“Citizens can email me and I will try to respond the same day,” he said.
Hutchins added, “My profession has me unavailable to take phone calls for a large part of the day, but emails I can read and try and respond quickly. I also want to explore a way for us to capture citizens’ feedback from the City’s website. I think this would make it easier for the citizens to share their feelings.”
Coombs said there is no state law regarding public comment periods for city council meetings, but most cities will allow public comment in some form.
“There are rules concerning public hearings and the best place to look is on the State’s public hearings website,” Coombs said.
According to minutes from the Feb. 20 meeting, Marshall pointed out that most cities have a public comment period either at the beginning of the meeting or the end, and some don’t have a public comment period at all.
He added that most cities suggest sending comments to the city recorder prior to the meeting and the city recorder would provide the comments to city council members.
Marshall explained this does not prevent the public from commenting at public hearings. He said one city provides instructions for public meeting etiquette.
“I’m not against public comments,” he said. “My concerns are to protect the city. I don’t want to have somebody speak when they shouldn’t and we get sued. Rules need to be enacted and that’s what we are going to talk about at the work meeting.”
The mayor said the City Council meeting agenda is an administrative function, not a legislative one and people get confused on the difference between a public hearing and public comments, according to the minutes. Citizens should contact the mayor about City Council meeting agendas, Marshall said.
A public hearing is a portion of a meeting intended to receive input from the general public, according to utah.gov. A public hearing may be required by ordinance or statute. The time, place and subject of the hearing must be posted as required by an ordinance or statute.