DerryNews.com, Derry, New Hampshire

October 25, 2012

Councilors give take on public meeting input

By Julie Huss jhuss@derrynews.com
Derry News

---- — DERRY — One councilor hoped for some changes in the way the Town Council handles its public forums at meetings.

Councilor Phyllis Katsakiores said councilors and other town officials should give immediate answers to residents during public input at regular meetings.

Right now, there is a three-minute rule for those who wish to speak during the public forum.

People have a right to speak on any issue except those that are officially on the agenda during that night's meeting.

Council Chairman Brad Benson said he inherited the current rules for public input and said traditionally councilors don't have a two-way conversation with those speaking during the forum.

Some residents are upset about not getting immediate answers to their questions, specifically about the Adams dam issue during a public input time.

Officials said it takes time to gather information to answer specific questions.

"We've done a good job getting follow-up information at the next scheduled meeting," Councilor Neil Wetherbee said.

Councilor Joel Olbricht agreed and said the council was doing a good job keeping order and following through.

"We should keep (the public forum) the way it is," he said. "Some issues are hot and citizens ought to be able to come here and voice frustration. And, by the next meeting, we can bring it back for dialogue."

Councilor Michael Fairbanks said the public sometimes asks questions that the group may need to research more.

"If they ask a question, they deserve an answer," he said. "Sometimes, the public brings us information we may not have."

Al Dimmock is a regular feature at council meetings and is often the first to speak during his three minutes at the microphone.

"We have a right to have our questions answered and not wait a week or two weeks," Dimmock said. "We asked the questions now and we want an answer now."

Benson polled the council and decided to keep the forum the way it is.

Katsakiores said it's the group's job to answer questions asked during a public forum and not wait for the next meeting.

"If people come and sit in the chairs and ask a question, I think our job is to answer it," she said. "That's what we were elected for. I don't think we are doing (our job) if we don't answer them."