Manatee County Commission adopts new public comments policy

Rep. Greg Steube talks new law prompted by Padi

Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, talks about the Dangerous Dog Law during Tuesday's commission meeting.
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Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, talks about the Dangerous Dog Law during Tuesday's commission meeting.

MANATEE -- Manatee County residents wishing to speak on certain agenda items will now have an opportunity to do so toward the beginning of commission meetings.

There will be a 30-minute period near the beginning of commission meetings for residents to speak on what are called "future" agenda items, or items not up for debate on that day, and each person will be limited to three minutes. Any public comment over that time will be heard at the end of the meeting.

The commission made this change to the public comment procedures just more than two months after the commission voted to move public comment on future agenda items to the end of the meeting.

"I think this allows the public, if you are working, say your three minutes and then you can leave," Commissioner Carol Whitmore said.

But with the order of speaking being determined by when the public comment cards are turned in, "enforcement is something the board will have to be vigilant of," County Attorney Mickey Palmer said.

"It does place a premium in getting here early enough and signing up early," Palmer said. "It will obviously be a first come, first speak procedure."

The commission chair will announce the 30-minute limitation at every meeting and the change will go into effect for the commission's next meeting.

Manatee County resident Linda Neely questioned how the 30 minutes at the beginning of the meeting will be policed.

"It's toward a solution but is it the final solution? I don't think so," she said.

Philip Brown, president of the United Way of Manatee County, said this is creating two times for public comment on future agenda items. Brown also suggested a way for speakers to sign up online in advance.

"That could accommodate a first come first serve but that to represents challenges as well," Brown said.

Also on Tuesday, the commission:

Heard an End of Session report from Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, and recognized him for his service this year particularly with regard to the Dangerous Dog law.

Approved the submission of an application for the Adult Drug Court Discretionary Grant Program for the Manatee Veterans Treatment Court Project. The grant would be for $150,000.

Approved an Economic Development Incentive Grant and Transportation Impact Fee Incentive for Project OLIVE, which will expand a manufacturing facility in the county. The company is projected to "create 20 quality jobs over five years with the company paying a minimum of 115 percent of the 2014 Manatee County average annual wage plus benefits," according to agenda materials.

Adopted a resolution which makes changes to the county's parks and natural resources department fee schedule, including the mobile stage security deposit and lifeguard certification course. The mobile stage security deposit fee has been decreased to $450 and the lifeguard certification course fee has been decreased from $180 to $50 for residents only.

Authorized the execution of three interlocal agreements between the county and the cities of Bradenton Beach, Holmes Beach and Anna Maria for law enforcement services on county beaches.

Claire Aronson, Manatee County reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024. Follow her on Twitter@Claire_Aronson.

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