Beaufort News

Bluffton Town Council will no longer accept late comment cards

To curb disruptions at Bluffton Town Council meetings, officials plan to bring back a rule that has lapsed: No public comments cards will be accepted after the meeting begins.

The policy will be back in force at the council's meeting Tuesday.

Public comment cards that require a name and address have been posted on the town's website and can be printed or emailed to town clerk Sandra Lunceford.

Paper cards will still be available on a table outside the Town Hall auditorium, but they will be removed when the meeting starts at 6 p.m., Lunceford said.

Lunceford, who has been town clerk for 20 years, said an increase in agenda items and attendance has made late public comment cards an annoyance.

"When the meeting has already started, I have to get up and ask Councilman Mike Raymond to pass (the card) down to the mayor, and they're trying to conduct business," Lunceford said. "It just needs to be a more formal meeting."

In previous years, Lunceford said, there weren't enough people in the audience for late public comment cards to cause much of a problem.

Mayor Lisa Sulka said it's not unusual for someone who wants to speak to arrive 10 or 20 minutes late.

When Sulka visited Hilton Head Island Town Council during one of former Mayor Tom Peeples' last meetings to thank him for his service, she discovered she wouldn't be allowed to speak. Residents who want to talk during the comment period must notify the town's receptionist by noon the day of the meeting, assistant town manager Greg DeLoach said.

Speakers are allowed to share their thoughts on individual agenda items without advanced notice, he said.

Sulka said Bluffton Town Council meetings should be run just as professionally.

"We're really lax," she said.

Resident Jimmy McIntire said he would be disappointed if the rule keeps people who are running a little late from having their say.

He also said he thinks some attendees will want to speak at the second public comment session -- held after agenda items are finished -- because of something they had heard earlier in the meeting.

But resident Scott Corkern said the procedure shouldn't be a burden, as long as the public is informed.

Councilman Mike Raymond said Bluffton Town Council has a very open public comments' policy.

"We have a great process in place," he said.