The public now has permission to address the state Transportation Commission at its monthly board meetings.
After at least four months of arguing, the Transportation Commission voted 6-0 Thursday to add a public comment section to its meeting agenda. Commissioners who had opposed the plan relented, saying they were tired of the fighting.
Commission member Sarah Nuckles, who pushed to add a public comment period at each meeting, said she was glad fellow board members finally supported her.
The Transportation Commission is the oversight board for the Department of Transportation, a public agency. It establishes road priorities throughout the state.
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“It’s a lot better than what we had,’’ Nuckles said after Thursday’s vote. “I just don’t know why this was such a big deal.’’
Nuckles said the public comment period isn’t perfect because it limits the number of speakers. The commission’s vote allows up to 10 speakers at each public meeting. They would be allowed to address the board for no more than three minutes each.
Commission chairman Danny Isaac said he believes the DOT has been open with the public and did not need to set aside a specific agenda item at every meeting. He said a commission meeting is the wrong venue for people to complain about small issues, such as ditch maintenance.
“I can see people coming in here telling us about a ditch or a culvert,’’ Isaac said. “I can see people coming in here talking to us about the grass hasn’t been cut in their area for a month. I personally do not feel that is the proper forum.’’
In an apparent reference to Nuckles, Isaac said he’s “concerned that there is an underlying agenda here. That’s why I’ve been opposed to it.’’
Still, Isaac and commissioner Craig Forrest said they would vote for the public comment period because the matter needs to be put to rest. The commission has voted at least twice against putting a permanent public comment period on the agenda.
“It’s starting to beat me down,’’ Forrest said before the vote. “I’m almost to the point of voting yes in order to get this thing off the table and get on with life.’’