Residents who work during the day will have more opportunities to address Beaufort County Council starting next year, leaders announced this week.
Starting Jan. 1, the council's twice-monthly meetings will begin at 6 p.m. rather than the usual 5 p.m.
"We think this will give citizens another hour before the council meeting starts to get off work and come to council chambers for the meeting," vice chairman Jerry Stewart said. "Having the public hearing at the beginning would allow them to be here, have the input they'd like and then allow them to leave, as opposed to sitting through the entire meeting."
A pre-meeting executive session and caucus -- during which members can discuss any items of interest -- will begin at 5 p.m. and 5:30 p.m., respectively, under the new schedule. Those meetings begin at 4 p.m. under the existing meeting schedule.
The changes pre-empt a federal audit of how accessible South Carolina's local governments are to its residents, especially minorities, council leaders have said. A review of other county government practices showed Beaufort County had the earliest meeting start time among peer counties, including Charleston, Richland and Greenville, county documents show.
All full council and council committee meetings will continue to be broadcast on the County Channel, leaders said. Those recordings will remain available for replay on the county website at www.bcgov.net.
The full council endorsed the changes at its meeting Monday. Only Councilman Rick Caporale opposed the change.
"I think it's ironic, at least -- if not, as I said, humorous," Caporale said, laughing. "Because I'm not sure what problem we're trying to solve or how we're going to measure the effect. It's the kind of thing government does best."
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