SANATOGA PA – A proposal to instill more order in what several members of the Lower Pottsgrove Board of Commissioners believe are their already orderly meetings was set aside Monday (March 7, 2016) for added review and possibly some revision.
Commissioners said they were pleased their colleague, Ray Lopez, thought in advance about adding legal language to govern board meetings that occasionally become argumentative. They thanked Lopez for his efforts in drafting the rules proposal, based in large part on Roberts’ Rules of Order Revised, and acknowledged the conference room in the municipal building at 2199 Buchert Rd. has been the site of a rare shouting match or two.
The suggested language would have limited public comments to no more than 3 minutes per person. It would have required commenters to register with the board in advance, using a sign-in sheet. It would have allowed the board to silence any persons who were deemed as “rude, belligerent, unruly or repetitive.” It also would have limited the number of times commissioners themselves could comment on an issue, and for how long.
Board members said they did not want to limit too severely either themselves or the public from offering valuable input on matters affecting the township, or their decisions regarding it.
“In my time here, the board and the audience have generally been more than cordial,” Commissioner James Vlahos observed. He encouraged board members to refrain from putting time limits on audience comments “so long as everybody conducts themselves in a professional and decent way.”
William Wolfgang, a Pruss Hill Road resident who also serves as a township planning commissioner, contended the board’s period for public comment may be “the only time” taxpayers can get to say their peace on an issue. “We’d like to keep that opportunity,” he added.
Vice President Stephen Klotz wondered who would be the official time-keeper on comment length; the answer, he learned, would be township Manager Ed Wagner. He also wondered about a provision of the proposal that would allow township department heads to leave a board meeting once their reports were delivered to commissioners. “That could be a bit of a distraction, leaving in the middle of a meeting,” Klotz mused.
North Pleasant View Road resident and former commission election candidate Charles Nippert congratulated Lopez for even attempting to create such rules. As a formerly parliamentarian himself, Nippert said, “that’s a thankless task guaranteed to annoy somebody.”
Asked for his opinion, Solicitor Charles Garner said he read the proposal and suggested only one minor wording change to comply with state Sunshine Law requirements. Other than that, he said, the proposal passes legal muster. Enabling it, he added, was “a board policy issue.”
The proposal was unanimously tabled but may return in revised form, board President Bruce Foltz noted.
Related (to the Lower Pottsgrove Board of Commissioners’ March 7 meeting):