Public comment time for Hannibal City Council meetings returning to 7 p.m.

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April Azotea speaks to the Hannibal City Council on Feb. 8 during the regular meeting time of 7 p.m. After the council instituted a 6:30 p.m. time slot for public comments, they voted at Tuesday’s meeting to move it back to the meeting time because the 30-minute time slot before the meeting was not used by patrons. | Muddy River File Photo by Megan Duncan

HANNIBAL, Mo. — Hannibal City Council voted at Tuesday’s meeting to return public comment time to 7 p.m. with a three-minute time limit for each speaker and the option to extend it another three minutes.

The council voted in January to give patrons a chance to speak or ask questions at 6:30 p.m., a half-hour before the regular meeting, without a time restriction or sign up requirements.

All council members, mayor pro tem, city manager and city clerk were present at each meeting in case someone came in. However, it was not utilized by people. 

Council members Stephan Franke and Charlie Phillips proposed at Tuesday night’s council meeting to return the time slot to the council meeting, which requires a quorum and is video recorded for the public to view.

“Any time the council does anything that involves the general public or the citizens and offers them unfettered access to the council, I think it is good and proper,” Phillips said. “But it’s been 10 months and if any change (in the public comment time) was necessary or wanted, it would have come up before now.”

Franke and Phillips asked for the comment time to come after simple requests on the agenda, such as street closures, to save time for the people making those quick requests.

Council member Darrell McCoy suggested keeping the 6:30 p.m. time slot and recording it for public viewing. 

“You can come talk about whatever you want to talk about for 30 minutes without holding anything else up,” he said. 

McCoy added he also didn’t mind moving it back to 7 p.m.. because councilmen could vote to change it back to the 6:30 p.m. time slot if the need arose. 

Council member Mike Dobson said the patron comments could come first to model the Hannibal Board of Public Works and various school board meeting agendas. However, he wanted a three minute-time restriction.

Franke and Phillips agreed with the three-minute time limit with the option to extend it another three minutes if needed.

The council unanimously voted to approve the change.

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