If you’re planning to speak at a Bridgeville Borough Council meeting, you’d better get to the point.
Earlier this month, council began limiting public comment at meetings to three minutes per person.
“In an effort to try to make our meetings run a little bit smoother and [more] timely,” said council president Michael Tolmer, “we’re going to try to limit speakers to three minutes.”
However, councilmembers will be able to grant speakers more time on a case-by-case basis if they’re especially interested in what that resident has to say.
“Obviously, if there’s something that you guys want to hear more of,” Tolmer said, turning to his fellow councilmen, “feel free to address that as you will.”
This year, the average borough council meeting has been 59 minutes long, with about 25 percent of that time devoted to public comment. Generally, three or four residents sign up to comment at each meeting.
There are two categories of people most likely to be affected by the new rule:
1). People speaking at council meetings for the first time
2). Bob Fryer.
Usually, only a dozen or so residents attend council meetings, and those folks are there every month. When a resident not familiar with council meetings comes with a grievance, he or she tends to speak longer and less succinctly than the season-ticket holders.
On the other hand, Bob Fryer—who is running for a council in November’s election—speaks at nearly every meeting. Usually about traffic problems, often using maps and other visual aids, and almost always for more then three minutes. At times, some councilmembers have been visibly annoyed with parts of Fryer’s presentations.
In any case, putting time limits on public comment is not uncommon among local municipal governments. Some communities have seen the public comment portion of government meetings balloon to several hours per meeting before limits were implemented.