FAIRHOPE — The Fairhope City Council deleted an item from Monday's agenda that would have removed one of the two public comment portions from council meetings.

Council President Corey Martin added the item, which would have allowed citizens to comment only on agenda items.

Martin said he added the item because he wanted the council to discuss how public participation is handled.

"This is something that, as the president, that I put on for us to have an opportunity to speak about," Martin said. "With our last council meeting, we had two sides talking and as that meeting went on, there were some things that I saw in that meeting."

"They're a little bit out of order and I thought that we could clean it up," Martin added. "My position on removing it was never to stop the community from being able to participate and to speak their minds, but to allow us to have the opportunity to speak in public about the organization of our procedures and how we will run our business."

Martin agreed to remove the ordinance after two other council members, Jack Burrell and Jimmy Conyers, said they did not agree with it.

As it stands, the public can address the council on city-related issues even if they are not on the agenda. Several council meetings have lasted over three hours due to multiple citizens addressing the council on controversial topics.

Martin said he hopes the public comment section can be streamlined by the public so that regular business may be handled in a timely manner. He offered an idea for opposing sides to appoint a representative to speak on their behalf so citizens would not repeat one another.

He also suggested only allowing comments from Fairhope residents and requiring them to sign in before speaking. Burrell, who helped write the current rules, disagreed.

"A lot of times, at the last minute, people don't get word that something's on the agenda," said Burrell. They don't get a chance to sign up, and therefore, they don't get a chance to be heard."

"So, Council President with all due respect, I was a little surprised this was on here when I found out last week, but I am adamantly opposed to changing it," Burrell added. "I'm not in favor of changing the current structure."

Burrell also said some people do not live in Fairhope but do business in the city, and he wants them to have the opportunity to address the council.

Mayor Sherry Sullivan said another way to communicate with city leadership is to call or email.

"Citizens are always welcome to call or email any City Council member or myself," Sullivan told 1819 News. I try to respond to calls and emails within 24 hours if at all possible. Also, I keep standard business hours in my office, and the Council has an office at City Hall for meetings. All of us are accessible to anyone wishing to meet about a specific topic."

To connect with the author of this story or to comment, email erica.thomas@1819news.com.

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