Jackson no longer taking e-mails for public hearings

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Public opinions or comments received through e-mail messages will no longer be accepted at Jackson's public hearings.

The board of aldermen voted Tuesday night to pass an ordinance clarifying a policy on public opinions and comments.

According to building and planning superintendent Janet Sanders, the city is no longer accepting e-mails because of their anonymity.

"Anyone can send an e-mail saying it's from someone other than the person who actually sent it," Sanders said. "We really don't have any way to know if that is the actual person who sends us an e-mail."

Jackson's aldermen will accept hand-delivered or post office-delivered letters, with a signature, at a public hearing. Any resident is allowed to voice an opinion or comment in person at a public hearing.

The city has never had a problem with residents sending comments through e-mail for a public hearing, said city administrator Jim Roach.

"We've only had one that was e-mailed to us," Sanders said. "Since e-mailing is becoming so prevalent, we just wanted to clarify the issue before it started happening even more."

To voice an opinion or comment at a public hearing, a resident must be present at the hearing or have the letter delivered to the city clerk, Mary Lowry, before the start of the hearing. Typically public hearings are announced in the newspaper two weeks in advance.

Cape Girardeau's City Council allows e-mailed comments or opinions at a public hearing.

"At this point, we still take in all comments by e-mail and we will compile them to present at a public hearing," said city manager Doug Leslie. "However we do encourage people to show up in person to make their comments on a particular subject."

Leslie said the city doesn't usually receive many e-mails for public hearings.

In Scott City, e-mails have never been accepted into a public hearing, said city administrator Ron Eskew.

"We have always practiced in-person. That's the purpose of a public hearing," Eskew said. "We've never had a written comment in my five years as city administrator. It's really never been an issue for us."

jfreeze@semissourian.com

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