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Wallingford Town Council may allow public comment earlier in budget process

Wallingford Town Council may allow public comment earlier in budget process

WALLINGFORD — The public may soon be able to address the Town Council during workshops, expanding the conversation in the annual budget process.

During a workshop on Feb. 11, the Town Council voted to advance two revisions of its rules to its next meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Town Hall council chambers.

Councilor Chris Shortell proposed the changes. One would amend the rules on public comment, which cover when and how long people can speak, to include regular meetings, special meetings and workshops.

“We should always err on the side of transparency and err on the side of letting the public talk, even if we don’t always want to hear it,” Shortell said on Feb. 11.

Currently, the public can comment at regular meetings during a public question and answer period, and at meetings of the council’s ordinance committee.

By opening up comment during workshops, the public would be able to voice opinions earlier in the budget process, Shortell said.

There is a public hearing on the budget, but public comment is not currently allowed during budget workshops.

If the revision passes, the only scenario where the public couldn’t comment would be during a workshop for the purpose of interviewing a candidate for a board or commission.

Councilor Vincent Testa said that he considers workshops “our meetings, and not to exclude the public but because it’s an opportunity for us to get something done amongst ourselves.”

“We’re not making decisions, we’re not voting on anything, that’s the whole point of it,” he said.

The other change would adjust the time frame when councilors can request that an item be removed from the consent agenda to take into account Monday town holidays.

The consent agenda is a list of items to be approved by one vote rather than a vote on each item. There is no discussion or debate by Town Council members or the public.

Currently, councilors receive agendas for Tuesday council meetings by the Wednesday evening prior to the meeting.

If a councilor requires more information on a consent agenda item, he or she can request that the item be removed and placed on the regular agenda by notifying town staff by 12:30 p.m. on the Monday before the meeting.

The new language would require councilors to notify the Town Clerk by 4 p.m. of the preceding Friday if the meeting occurs on a Tuesday following a Monday holiday.
Twitter: @LCTakores