The Harford County Council has changed some of its procedural rules, in keeping with Council President Richard Slutzky's earlier stated commitment to regularly revisit the council's interactions with the public.
Among the changes, speakers will no longer be allowed to cede time to other speakers, a move that could speed up hearings with large numbers of people wishing to testify. In addition, comments made during a hearing will be required to be limited to the subject of the hearing.
Another change permits written testimony to be submitted at any time after legislation is introduced.
All public comment and citizen input times are also moved closer to the end of the meeting.
Those speaking during the public comment period cannot speak about the subject of a public hearing, such as bills under consideration, until the meeting after action is taken on the subject, which has already been informal policy for the council.
The council president, meanwhile, will be able to cancel a council session because of unsafe conditions for the public, such as snow and ice on roads.
Slutzky said the document containing the changes did not have any "ground shaking" alterations, but procedures had not been updated in a while and some items were not consistent with state legislation.
The changes were approved at Tuesday night's council meeting.
Bond bills passed
The council Tuesday also approved several pieces of bond legislation and voted down an amendment requested by Councilman Mike Perrone that would have kept County Executive Barry Glassman's request for an agriculture center from moving forward until a Joppatowne community center is built.
Perrone tried to strike $150,000 in proposed funding for an Agricultural Research & Exposition Center, saying Joppatowne is the only major area of the county without a community center.
"I don't think it's fair to move forward on an agriculture center before Joppatowne has a community center," he said.
The rest of the council disagreed, with the other six members voting against Perrone's proposal.
The approval means the county can borrow up to $33.4 million for a variety of projects, including items for school improvements, watershed restoration, the regional high-speed fiber optic network, road and bridge improvements and water and sewer upgrades.
The county can also reallocate some funds from a $40 million bond issued earlier this year for previous capital projects and five new projects, including $250,000 for classrooms for autistic students at Fallston High School.
The council also approved Glassman's request to make Cindy Mumby director of the county's Office of Governmental and Community Relations.
Mumby had previously been deputy director of the agency, whose prior director resigned this summer. She will continue to serve as the county government's spokesperson, according to the county administration.