MOUNT VERNON — The Knox County Land Bank Board of Directors has adopted a Public Comment During Meeting Policy that Land Bank President Jeff Gottke said is designed to encourage rather than discourage public comments.
Though the policy as adopted Aug. 28 states “Speakers are given 3 minutes each and must stop their comments promptly when signaled,” Gottke said the purpose is not to cut speakers off on a particular topic. Rather, it gives all a chance to speak were there to be a topic where there were multiple speakers, all wishing to be heard.
Gottke added that the land bank board would have the option to allow a speaker to extend their comments past 3 minutes if they deem it important enough.
“You have to have some reasonable limits,” he said, while offering that the land bank’s public comment policy is patterned after policies used by the Knox County Commissioners and Mount Vernon City Council.
Thus far, the land bank board has not received public comments from audience members, because the public does not typically attend its meetings, Gottke said. But since the land bank acquires dilapidated properties in hopes of demolishing them or reselling them for the public good, he said it is important the public know about the land bank and its mission, and take part when there are things of value to discuss.
The land bank also serves as the go-to entity for Knox County and the city of Mount Vernon to sell “government surplus property,” as has been the case with the county-owned property at 1375 Newark Road that currently houses New Hope Industries, Inc., but is in the process of being bought by AMG Industries for $1.05 million. Although public comments opposed to requiring NHI to relocate by April 15 of next year were heard, those comments were made to Knox County Commissioners in July before they approved a contract asking the land bank to move ahead and advertise the property for sale. This resulted in NHI receiving four extra months to move.
“The Knox County Land Bank Board welcomes and encourages public participation,” the policy states. As an “organization whose focus is on community development, hearing from the community is an important tool in assisting the Board in accomplishing its mission. Therefore, it is the intent of the Board to give the general public the opportunity to comment and provide input on the activities of the Land Bank during its public meetings.”
The policy also states that speakers should begin their comments by stating their names, topic of interest of concern and address. That would differ from current county commissioners’ practice at meetings, with commissioners not typically requiring those who speak to first state such information.
The Land Bank policy also states:
•Speakers are expected to be courteous and professional. The chairperson of the board may terminate public comments that are offensive, profane, vulgar, defamatory or disruptive.
•If there are multiple speakers, their order of speaking will be determined by the chairperson of the board.
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