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Commissioners end public comments on meeting agenda items

Beginning Monday, the public will no longer be allowed to comment on agenda items at St. Joseph County Commissioners meetings unless commissioners make special exceptions.

Most local governmental bodies set aside time at the end of their meetings for what they call “Privilege of the Floor.” It’s a chance to comment on or question things the body has authority over but aren’t specifically being addressed on that meeting’s agenda.

St. Joseph County commissioners have called this part of the meeting “Public Comments,” and they’ve allowed comments for up to three minutes on agenda items because they don’t conduct public hearings on each agenda item like other bodies.

But starting Monday, commissioners will no longer allow comments on agenda items in the “Public Comments” section of the meeting either. Republican Commissioner President Carl Baxmeyer made the announcement at Tuesday’s regular meeting.

On Wednesday Baxmeyer said he’s trying to bring more order to meetings. He said people rarely want to comment on agenda items anyway, and it doesn’t make sense to allow comment on things commissioners already have voted on.

Baxmeyer said he’ll continue his practice, as he did before the vote to close Portage Manor, of allowing public comment before commissioners vote on matters he considers controversial.

"I want to make sure that people who want to speak on non-agenda items get that opportunity," Baxmeyer said. "We're not in any way eliminating that. I think that too much is being made out of this, frankly."

Parrott, a longtime public radio fan, comes to WVPE with about 25 years of journalism experience at newspapers in Indiana and Michigan, including 13 years at The South Bend Tribune. He and Kristi live in Granger and have two children currently attending Indiana University in Bloomington. In his free time he enjoys fixing up their home, following his favorite college and professional sports teams, and watching TV (yes that's an acceptable hobby).