City approves new public comment policy

by Angie Asam-Staff Writer

As has been well documented, tensions have been rising between the “Citizens for a Safer Community” and the Onaway City Commission at meetings all of 2013. Since the Onaway Police Department was eliminated things have only become more strained.

At the Aug. 5 meeting things really grew even more stressful with a recess being called as sheriff’s deputies were called into the meeting. Monday evening the commission met and the “Citizens for a Safer Community” were not present. No public comment was offered and the meeting flowed smoothly.

Although they did not hear from any members of the public during public comment, because no one present at the meeting wished to speak, the commissioners’ first order of business on the agenda was the approval of a new public comment policy to address some of the issues that have made meetings very strained lately.

“At recent meetings of the Onaway City Commission some members of the audience have engaged in disruptive and rude behavior that has made it difficult for us, as elected officials, to conduct business. We have tried to be patient and work through these disruptions but things got so out of hand at a meeting two weeks ago that the meeting had to be stopped so the sheriff’s deputies could be called in. What happened two weeks ago will never be tolerated again as long as I am serving as mayor of the city. I will not allow those who are unwilling or unable to control themselves or to behave as adults to hijack meetings and I want to ask that we adopt a policy making it very clear the city’s stance on public comment,” said mayor Gary Wregglesworth.

The policy reads as follows: “There will be a public comment period following the call to order, pledge of allegiance, approval of agenda and approval of minutes at the beginning of each meeting of the Onaway City Commission. Those who wish to address the city commission must sign in prior to the call to order and those who choose to speak during the public comment period will be limited to three minutes apiece.

“No member of the audience not included on the meeting agenda as adopted by the city commission will be permitted to speak before the public comment period ends or after its conclusion.

“Those who do not heed the time limit placed on public comment, or attempt to address the city commission or staff, or disrupt the meeting in any way before or after the public comment period, may be removed from the meeting.”

“That is the policy I am asking the commission to adopt, and therefore request a motion to do so. I would note that those who disrupt public meetings can be charged in criminal court,” said Wregglesworth.

Commissioner Jessie Horrocks then moved that the commission adopt the policy. Commissioner Chuck Abshagen seconded the motion and it passed by a unanimous vote.


• The city will be considering another alley abandonment request. Deb Artip recently purchased a home on North Lynn Street and has requested that the city vacate the undeveloped alley north of her new home. The commission will hold a public hearing at its Sept. 16 meeting to consider the request.

• City manager Joe Hefele gave an update on the Onaway housing target market analysis that is being worked on by Moran Iron Works and the city. The Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) is in the process of hiring a consultant to perform the target market analysis, a process Hefele will be involved with once it begins.

Hefele recently attended a meeting with Northeast Michigan Affordable Housing (NEMAH) and MSHDA. James Espinoza of MSHDA indicated that some housing grant dollars could flow into Onaway while the target market analysis is being done.

Grant dollars could provide for homeowner rehabilitation programs, home buyer acquistion and rehabilitation, and rental rehabilitiation programs.

Hefele will be writing a column for the Outlook to give information about the programs and how those interested can get involved.

• A project on North Elm street will begin before the next commission meeting. The plan is to begin with the water main on Sept. 3. Some residents will be without water for a period of time while the work is being completed but all will be notified before that happens.