Parkersburg City Council to discuss public forum

Resolution would shorten times, rank by residency

PARKERSBURG — A resolution that changes the public forum at Parkersburg City Council meetings may be amended to shorten how long a person can speak and set an order upon which people can comment based on residency, two councilmen said Friday.

The legislation before council at its 7:30 p.m. Tuesday meeting was sponsored by Councilmen J.R. Carpenter, Zach Stanley and Mike Reynolds and eliminates the second public forum, but allows a 30-minute forum at the beginning of the meeting with speakers allowed to speak on any topic.

Current rules for the first public forum at the beginning of the meeting limit speakers to items on the agenda. People can talk about anything at the second forum, which was added by council in June while it was deliberating a non-descrimination ordinance. Record numbers of people on both sides of the issue attended and spoke to city council about the ordinance, including after council rejected it on a 6-3 vote in August, causing lengthy meetings.

The rules allow a speaker five minutes to talk, which is a long time, and only allows for six people to speak during a 30-minute period, Councilman John Reed said on Friday. Council can suspend its rules and extend the forum beyond 30 minutes

Reed, who opposed comment limited to only what was on the agenda, said he may move to amend the resolution to reduce the time to speak from 5 minutes to 2 minutes.

“By limiting it to 2 minutes, it would allow more people to speak,” Reed said. “It might be better to narrow that a little bit.”

A resolution to eliminate the second forum was removed from the council agenda in September after councilmen cited confusion over whether citizens could speak on any topic. Most councilmen who sponsored the legislation pulled their sponsorship.

No confusion this time, Councilman Sharon Kuhl said.

Amendments being planned will improve the public forum, she said. Among those is any speaker can address items on the agenda first, Kuhl said.

After speakers are finished with agenda items, citizens can then speak on non-agenda issues; however, residents of the city would have the first opportunity to speak, then non-residents, Kuhl said.

“I think it’s going to strengthen the public forum,” she said.

Also on the agenda at Tuesday’s meeting is a presentation of Matt Boggs and Judd Fulks of Recovery Point Parkersburg, an addiction treatment center, about the facility at 4204 Emerson Ave. A ribbon cutting for the 85-bed facility will be held 1-3 p.m. Wednesday and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is among speakers.

On final reading is an ordinance allowing fireworks to be discharged during designated times. It passed on first reading on Sept. 26 on a 6-2 vote with Carpenter and Stanley voting against.

The ordinance allows fireworks between 9 and 11 p.m. July 2-4 and from 9 p.m. Dec. 31 to 12:30 a.m. Jan. 1.