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Lower Saucon Council members can't agree on public comment rules

By Tom De Martini, WFMZ.com Reporter, news@wfmz.com
Published On: Jan 15 2014 10:37:18 PM CST
Updated On: Jan 16 2014 05:38:47 AM CST
Lower Saucon council meeting
LOWER SAUCON TWP., Pa. -

Lower Saucon Township Council members bickered at length Wednesday night about whether to limit public comment during council meetings to three minutes.

Following a half hour of debate on the subject, council decided to punt the issue back to Township Manager Jack Cahalan for further review.

At issue were a number of items concerning how and when members of the public should address council during meetings.

But none drew more debate between council members than limiting the public comment period to 180 seconds per person.

"We welcome public comment. We have rules to follow, but people shouldn't be intimidated to come and talk before council," said council member Priscilla deLeon. "I'm against it."

Council vice-president Tim Maxfield disagreed, stating that some members of the public have become rambling speakers in the past.

"The goal is to run a business meeting," Maxfield said. "We don't want to lose that three-minute goal. You can say what you have to say in three minutes." Maxfield noted that many Lehigh Valley municipalities have adopted similar rules.

Councilman, David Willard, said the best comments he's heard from the public during his tenure have been in the three-to-five minute range.

Williard suggested the comment time limit be set at three minutes, but also allows council president Ron Horiszny to lengthen it at his discretion.

"He has the gavel," Willard said. "That's more powerful than a timer."

Not surprisingly, members of the public promptly spoke out against any time limit to address subjects debated by council.

Ironically, the time limit debate occurred after council members and solicitor B. Lincoln Treadwell were harangued for more than 30 minutes by a local family concerning a storm water issue that will eventually be heard by the township's Zoning Hearing Board.

In other business, and with very little discussion, council granted a grading waiver for construction planned for the Saucon Valley School District.

The school district is in the midst of constructing an Environmental Education Center on its Hellertown campus located adjacent to the Polk Valley Run Stream.

Groundbreaking on the new Environmental Education Center, along 20 acres on Polk Valley Road, took place in Sept. of 2013. The project was launched in 2012.

No members of the school board attended the council meeting.