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Forsyth commission OKs second public comment period

FORSYTH COUNTY — Thanks to a policy change made official Thursday night, Forsyth residents will have a second opportunity to address county commissioners at future regular meetings.

Since the meetings begin at 5 p.m. and the public comments portion comes early on, a second public comments portion is intended to increase accessibility.

“The point being, by the board, was to allow individuals who perhaps cannot make it here by 5 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. to nonetheless have an opportunity for public comments a little later in the evening,” said County Attorney Ken Jarrard.

The measure passed in a 5-0 vote.

Kirk Wintersteen, a county resident who frequently speaks at meetings, told commissioners he felt the change would be a positive.

“We are a rapidly growing county,” Wintersteen said. “We are at the top 1 percent for growth, and yet we find that a lot of our citizens are just unaware and not engaged in the process of county government, and this is not going to be healthy for the long-term health of the county.”

Chester Kramarski, a Forsyth resident who also commonly attends meetings, didn’t speak for or against the change, but said he favored starting meetings later, a concept which had previously been discussed.

“Sitting through all of these work sessions that I do, I do recall a topic that there was a discussion over either delaying the start of the commission meeting and allowing extra taxpayers to attend or delaying by an hour or half hour,” he said.

“If you started the meeting later, then you may not need a [second] comments section.”

Jarrard said the exact placement of the second comment time will vary based on the particular meeting’s agenda.

Following the first public comments portion, meetings typically go through public hearings, old business and new business before adjourning.

“This would be a public [comment] opportunity that would occur either at the close of the public hearing section generally, but before old business,” Jarrard said.

Prior to the change, public comments had been capped at 30 minutes and 10 speakers. Jarrard said the change would double both, meaning a possible maximum of an hour of comments from 20 speakers.

If no one signs up, then the commission will move on. The new change will be in place for the commission’s next regular meeting, which is in March.