The Covington News - - Front page -

“That’s not enough time for ev­ery­body. Some peo­ple can’t ex­plain their is­sues in three min­utes,” res­i­dent Rosie Craw­ford said.

In the end, the group de­cided the five minute per in­di­vid­ual and 10 minute per group rule was the best choice. City Clerk Tonya Grier said Tues­day it was her un­der­stand­ing that 10 min­utes would be given to the pro-side of an ar­gu­ment and 10 min­utes would be given to the con-side of an ar­gu­ment.

Coun­cil­woman Hawnethia Wil­liams ex­pressed con­cern that the rule might be un­fairly en­forced.

“We’ve got to be fair to ev­ery­body. Some peo­ple (might be) al­lowed more time be­cause we know them and like them, they have a cer­tain po­si­tion in the com­mu­nity and we let them go on and on … not go­ing to be fair to the per­son who is not as well know and not as fa­vored,” she said. “If not, this is go­ing to back­fire on all us and is not go­ing to look good.”

The coun­cil dis­cussed whether to use a clock, stop­watch, bell or other de­vice but will de­cide be­fore the next meet­ing. Grier said Tues­day she was looking into get­ting a stop­light timer, that would flash yel­low when time was run­ning out and red when time was up.

Coun­cil­man Keith Dal­ton orig­i­nally pro­posed the three-minute limit, but he said re­gard­less of the time limit, the key is to let the res­i­dent speak un­in­ter­rupted for his time limit. Then the res­i­dent would not be al­lowed to speak fur­ther un­less a coun­cil mem­ber asks a ques­tion.

“Let them speak, be­cause when you get into a de­bate the clock goes out the win­dow, and we get back to 25 and 30 min­utes,” Dal­ton said. “This is not the proper fo­rum to de­bate.”

The coun­cil dis­tin­guished be­tween peo­ple who show up at the meet­ing and want to speak about some­thing not on the agenda, and those who sign up to be on the agenda ahead of time. There will be no time limit for peo­ple who have signed up to be on the agenda.

“If some­one is pre­sent­ing their facts and they have sent in doc­u­men­ta­tion and asked to be on the agenda, I’m not in­clined to cut them off at five min­utes,” Carter said.

Res­i­dent Vir­ginia Hoff­man spoke about an is­sue in her neigh­bor­hood dur­ing the pub­lic com­ments sec­tion, which lasted about 20 min­utes.

The coun­cil chose not to dis­tin­guish be­tween city res­i­dents and non­res­i­dents, be­cause many non-res­i­dents pay util­i­ties and do busi­ness in Cov­ing­ton.

The coun­cil voted 3-2, with Wil­liams and Coun­cil­woman Ocie Franklin op­pos­ing the time limit. The change will go into ef­fect at the April 19 meet­ing.

Franklin said she op­posed be­cause she felt more dis­cus­sion was needed. Wil­liams voted against the time limit be­cause she said “I see av­enues for un­fair­ness. I see un­fair­ness all the way around.”

Mon­day’s night agenda had a to­tal of 36 items and lasted from 6:30 p.m. un­til af­ter 9 p.m. The Cov­ing­ton coun­cil has two pub­lic com­ments sec­tion, one be­fore the meet­ing and one af­ter the meet­ing; the only cityin New­ton County that of­fers two op­por­tu­ni­ties. Carter has said pre­vi­ously sev­eral times that she wants to give cit­i­zens as much op­por­tu­nity to speak as pos­si­ble; how­ever, in re­cent weeks she said she felt res­i­dents had been abus­ing this right.

Carter said Tues­day that res­i­dents can con­sider set­ting up a meet­ing with City Man­ager Steve Horton or coun­cil mem­bers at other times dur­ing the week; that way spe­cific is­sues don’t take up ev­ery­body’s time.

On a re­lated note, some progress came out of the util­ity de­bates, as a Util­ity Re­source Com­mit­tee was formed Mon­day night. The com­mit­tee will be com­posed of two res­i­dents, two coun­cil mem­bers and two city em­ploy­ees and will look for ways to lower util­ity us­age and rates and look for ad­di­tional util­ity as­sis­tance.

Wil­liams and Dal­ton, Util­ity Di­rec­tor Bill Meecham and Grant Writer Randy Con­ner and Craw­ford, a res­i­dent in the west­ern half of the city, and a res­i­dent from the east­ern part of the city, who will be cho­sen by the east ward coun­cil mem­bers will com­prise the com­mit­tee.

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