Changes expected in public forum portion of Ronda Board of Commissioners meetings

By Beanie Taylor -

RONDA — In spite of several visitors commenting, the Thursday work session of the Ronda Board of Commissioners did not last long. That may have been due to the fact that most items had been previously discussed in depth and final considerations were made before placing them on the reformatted agenda for the monthly board meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Town Hall.

Of significant concern to those Ronda residents who attend the public board of commissioners meetings the second Tuesday of each month is the prospective change in the public speaking policy.

“Typically the public comment is the first thing on the agenda. It gives people the opportunity to speak on something that might be on the agenda or to say what they have to say then go home,” explained town consultant Ron Niland, who informed the board that the only state requirement was that they had to have a period for the public to address the board, but there were no rules dictating when it should occur during a meeting. “I do have a couple that do it at the end, but sometimes people speak on the fact that they don’t like what was done during the meeting.”

“I’ve heard a lot of towns say that the public speaking period is for items that’s not on the agenda,” stated Commissioner Sandra Simmons. “Until we all discuss [an issue] a lot of people don’t know what we’re talking about.”

Commissioner Rheajean Benge agreed saying she had people complaining to her as well, “they weren’t getting the object of what our meetings were about.”

Mayor Victor Varela stated, “The way I run the meetings I allow people to comment during the meeting.”

“What we really need to do is adopt rules for our public period,” encouraged Niland, assigning his partner and brother, Gary, to work with Benge to research other municipality policies and come up with a set of guidelines for Ronda.

“It needs to be where it’s not a public speech,” cautioned Niland warning that, “when someone is passionate about something, they can talk for 40 minutes and say the same thing in 20 different ways.”

After much discussion, the board agreed that the policy for open public forum should be a limited amount of time with discretion, address decorum concerns and distinguish the procedures for public address of the board during a meeting. The board agreed they would like the public speaking period to be limited to non-agenda items with residents being recognized to address concern when agenda items are reached during the regular course of the meeting.

“We don’t want to be the kind of town that doesn’t want to hear from the public,” cautioned Niland who, like the rest of the board, is eager for input from the residents of Ronda.

“I need a committee,” declared Niland when Varela told the board it was time to discuss the fall festival being planned.

Local residents are encouraged to contact Town Hall at 336-835-2061 to volunteer for the Fall Festival Committee. Intended to encourage economic growth and community pride, the festival is a renewal of the Ronda Round Up.

Beanie Taylor can be reached at 336-258-4058 or on Twitter @TBeanieTaylor.

By Beanie Taylor

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