Public comment process changed

Published 5:34 pm Saturday, July 30, 2022

The Buckingham Board of Supervisors has changed the public comment period policy back to its pre-COVID-19 format.

When COVID-19 shut the world down in March 2020, many operations changed in order to keep moving forward safely. When it came to the Board of Supervisors meetings, processes had to change due to gathering restrictions and citizens not feeling safe to go outside before the vaccine was readily available.

According to a joint statement from Board Chairman Jordan Miles and County Administrator Karl Carter, one of the changes made was allowing residents to submit written comments to be read out loud at the meetings. This was a temporary solution and the board is no longer accepting written comments or voicemails for the public comment period of its meetings.

“That process was putting immense stress on our small board-meeting related staff as staff had to pull the information, process it and then perform a cross-check because citizens were submitting written comments as well as verbal, and we were only allowing one type of comment,” the statement from Miles and Carter said. “This became apparent when we had nearly hundreds of submissions during a public hearing, many of which were duplicates.”

Even though the written comment portion is no longer available, there are still other ways Buckingham residents can make their voices heard. According to Carter and Miles, citizens can still speak at the meetings during the public comment period. Citizens can also send their comments to the supervisors or the county administrator by finding their information on the county website. This may not have the statement read publicly at the meeting like before, but the comments will still get to supervisors for consideration. This process will be similar to how the comment period worked before the pandemic.

“Again, we have a small directly board-related staff, so we feel this compromise is fair to both the citizens, who can contact their representatives at any time, the board and our hard-working staff,” Carter and Miles said in their statement.

Even though the written comment process is going to pre-COVID-19 times some new practices are here to stay. The board plans to continue to live stream the meetings on the county’s YouTube channel for citizens to still watch the meetings from home.