Charlotte County supervisors reduce time for public comment

Published 11:49 pm Thursday, January 18, 2024

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Citizens who attend meetings of Charlotte County supervisors will no longer have two opportunities to address board members.

During the board’s January meeting, members voted 5 to 2 to eliminate the second public comment period, which has been in place for close to five years.

Supervisor Hazel Bowman Smith and Henry Carwile cast the only no votes. 

Before the vote, a comment period for citizens was held at the beginning and at the end of each meeting. 

“I am a firm, firm believer in public comment,” said Vice Chairman Walt Bailey.

However, it was Bailey who brought up the option to eliminate the second comment period. 

Bailey said he had talked with many citizens in the county and he and most felt there was no need for the second comment period.

“I’ve been to 22 counties in Virginia giving presentations for fire programs, and I’ve never seen a second public comment period, and in some counties, I have not even seen one public comment period,” Bailey said.

Charlotte County supervisors look around

County Administrator Dan Witt explained that county officials had reached out to surrounding counties to inquire about their policy. 

“No other country has a second comment period,” Witt said.

Supervisor Hazel Bowman-Smith said she had many citizens in her district reach out to her to express interest and need in the second comment period. 

Bowman-Smith said even though she didn’t like the tone of the comment period and what it had become, she did agree that it needed to remain.

“People seem to get up and bash us in the second comment period,” she said. 

For new Supervisor Henry Carwile, he said, “We should not take it away from the people.”

Daniel Dixion, Chairman of the Friends of Charlotte County, an organization that has been vocal in addressing the board both by public comment and written letters, said the decision was disappointing.

“A very dedicated group of people fought long and hard for this in previous years, and the loss is disappointing,” Dixon said. 

When was it added?

It was in June 2019 that then Supervisors Kay Pierantoni and Donna Fore pushed for adding the second comment period, with their motions ultimately passing in a 4 to 2 vote. 

During that meeting’s vote, both Pierantoni and Fore said, “To give the citizens the last word is the right thing to do. They (citizens) can’t speak out during the meeting, but this gives them the opportunity at the end.”