MANATEE -- Residents wishing to speak on future meeting agenda items at Manatee County Commission meetings will now have to wait until later in the meeting.
At Tuesday's meeting, the commission voted 4-3 to move public comment on future meeting agenda items to the end of the meeting from its current position coming after the consent agenda.
Commissioners Betsy Benac, John Chappie and Robin DiSabatino cast dissenting votes.
As a way to allow the commission to take care of the county business first on the day's agenda, the commission directed the County Attorney's Office to draft the change.
Several commissioners proposed different alternatives, including having a 30-minute period near the beginning of the meeting for public comment on future agenda items. Any public comment over that time would be heard at the end of the meeting.
Ultimately, the commission voted to move public comment on future agenda items to the end of the meeting. There was no change on time citizens will be allowed to speak for or any change to any other public comment during the meeting other than that of future agenda items.
"We are trying to do the business of the county and of the citizens of Manatee County," Commission Chairwoman Vanessa Baugh said. "It seems to me that no matter what we do there are some in this room right now that will never be happy."
DiSabatino, who suggested a 30-minute period prior to the start of the meeting for public comment, said she couldn't support arbitrarily moving it to the end of the meeting.
"You don't know what time," she said.
While some citizens expressed concerns about moving public comment to the end of the meeting, Commissioner Larry Bustle said the county is already one of the most liberal in the state when it comes to public comment.
"You are still going to have a public comment section, which will be when all the complaints will be held," he said. "It is not going to be less important to put it at the end of the meeting."
Manatee County resident Glen Gibellina said if proclamations and awards are moved, at "9 o'clock you hit the floor running with the agenda items."
"There is a lot of fluff time in every one of these meetings that can be eliminated," he said.
If the commission met in the evening more of the public would be able to attend, Manatee County resident Nathan Levinson said.
"I believe you need to work around the public," he said. "We definitely need meetings in the evening for all the public."
While voting for the motion, Commissioner Carol Whitmore said she is going to work with staff to find a way to come to the commission chambers before meetings to hear from citizens.
"We will come down here before meetings and let people speak on what they want on a future agenda," she said.
Claire Aronson, Manatee County reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024. Follow her on Twitter@Claire_Aronson.