Hancock commision sticking with public comment policy

NEW CUMBERLAND — The Hancock County Commission, Thursday, opted to remain with its current practices for public comment during its meetings.

The issue was raised during the commission’s Feb. 28 meeting, during which time Commission President Joe Barnabei requested county Assistant Prosecutor Mike Lucas research the possibility of restricting citizen’s remarks to only address items on the agenda of commission meetings.

“We’re not going to be a launching pad for attacks anymore,” Barnabei said during the previous meeting.

Thursday, the commission agenda included a discussion of the Open Governmental Meetings Act, at which time Barnabei reiterated the commission had the ability to make such a move.

The other commissioners, however, said they feel the current practice should remain for the time being.

“We need to stick to our agenda items, but we still need a time for comments,” Commissioner Jeff Davis said.

Commissioner Paul Cowey agreed, saying he would like to hear the thoughts of residents.

Lucas noted he had looked into state law and agreed the commission has the authority to establish its own policy for taking comments, including limiting the content for discussion and setting a time limit.

“You don’t have to have a public comment period,” Lucas said. “It’s not required.”

During Thursday’s public comment portion, resident Rudy Rosnick raised several questions, including the proposed policy and operations at the Hancock County Animal Shelter, along with claims concerning the county Health Board and last fall’s commission election. His comments prompted commissioners to play two audio recordings of previous meetings to counter his points.

In other business, the commission:

• Recognized residents Madelynn McKinney, Jane Tate and Mackenzie Pierce with volunteer awards in recognition for their contributions to the county animal shelter. McKinney has dedicated her birthday over the last few years to collecting donations for the shelter. Tate has collected various donations in addition to volunteering her time. Pierce was recognized for volunteering more than 43 hours at the shelter.

• Approved a request from Carole Scheerbaum, WVU Extension agent for Hancock County, to advertise for two summer interns.

• Removed from the table, and then approved the request to lease of four cruisers and equipment for the sheriff’s department, pending a final draft of the proposal request.

• Approved the payments for audits for the county Parks and Recreation Board for a total of $13,350 to Perry and Associates and $1,068 to the state Auditor’s Office. This covers a three-year period from fiscal year’s 2016-2018.

• Approved an internal budget revision for the current fiscal year.

• Approved the transfer of Steven Dixon from full-time dispatcher to part-time dispatcher, effective March 22.

The commission also scheduled a workshop to review the county’s budget at 2 p.m., March 19, and its next regular meeting at 2:30 p.m., March 28.

(Howell can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com, and followed via Twitter @CHowellWDT)