HOULTON, Maine — Two years after altering the time reserved for public comment during its meetings, the Town Council earlier this week shifted its policy in a move it says will better help them hear from residents.
During the meeting at the town office, the board unanimously cast aside its old public comment strategy, which gave residents an opportunity to speak at the beginning of the meeting and before each nonordinance action taken by the council.
Now, the council will hear public comment at the beginning of the meeting on both nonagenda and agenda items. The council, however, no longer will take comments from the public after each agenda item — that time will be reserved for the council to discuss the matter.
The public comment period will be held before acceptance of the previous meeting’s minutes. The council also retained the right to limit the time for public comment.
This will not affect public hearings that are scheduled on the agenda — residents still will be allowed to offer comment during such hearings.
Council Chairman Paul Cleary stressed during the meeting that the council is not eliminating public comment.
Councilor Walter Goodrich said he supported the move.
“It makes sense to me and I feel that it will help our meetings run more smoothly,” he said.
Councilor Nancy Ketch agreed.
Houlton resident Phil Bernaiche objected, however, saying he felt it was not a good move and “not very professional.”
Resident Stan Ginish also objected.
The change will take effect at the next meeting.