Negaunee council to consider public comment policy revisions

NEGAUNEE – The Negaunee City Council will decide at its meeting tonight whether to make some changes to its public comment policy in light of a recent Marquette County Circuit Court ruling that the city had violated the Open Meetings Act.

The council will meet at 7 p.m. at the Negaunee Senior Center.

After roll call and approval of the agenda, the council will go into closed session to discuss with City Attorney Bruce Houghton the decision by Judge Jennifer Mazzuchi in favor of Negaunee resident Kim Klein, who was removed from the podium during a contentious public comment session at a council meeting Jan. 9.

Once back in open session, the council will consider two revisions to the city’s public comment policy. The first is to do away with one of the city’s two public comment sessions and shorten in the remaining public comment period the length that each resident may address the council from five minutes to three minutes. The second potential revision calls for keeping two public comment sessions, one at the beginning of the meeting and one at the end, but shortening the comment length to three minutes.

The city included in the information packets distributed to council members a list of public comment policies of surrounding municipalities. Many other nearby cities, including Ishpeming and Marquette, have only one public comment period with a three-minute time limit. Negaunee and Marquette townships both have two periods.

Though the city can’t act on either of the two revisions until the council passes a motion supporting one or the other, or voting to maintain the city’s current policy, tonight’s meeting agenda only has one public comment period, at the end of the meeting. Houghton said “in all likelihood” the council will vote to keep two public comment periods while shortening the time limit, but didn’t have an explanation for why there was only one on tonight’s agenda. He said that council had to approve the agenda at the start of the meeting and that it’s possible there would be revisions made to the agenda beforehand.

The council will also consider awarding a bid for repairs to the city clock tower. City Manager Jeff Thornton said the city only received one bid by the time deadline, from A&F Construction of Marquette, in the amount of $35,500 – nearly three times the cost projected by engineers. Thornton said part of the necessary work includes maintenance to a series of gutters and drains and that the discrepancy lay in A&F wanting to use a licensed plumber to make those repairs.

Zach Jay can be reached at 906-486-4401.