Board adjusts start time to open session

Published 9:36 pm Saturday, August 13, 2022

Citizens are advised to arrive for future Southampton County Board of Supervisors’ meetings at 6 p.m. after a decision made by the board at its July 26 meeting.

The board decided that for its future meetings, it will proceed immediately from closed session back into open session rather than waiting until a set open-session time.

The board has been starting its meetings at 6 p.m. and then immediately going into recess for closed session before returning to open session at the set, announced time of 7 p.m.

However, in the event of closed sessions running short, this arrangement created a window of time in which supervisors and county staff were left waiting sometimes 30 minutes or more for 7 p.m. to arrive.

The suggestion for the board to proceed immediately from closed session back into open session at future meetings was presented July 26.

“I think it’s a good idea,” Franklin District Supervisor Robert White said. “It’ll save us some time.”

Jerusalem District Supervisor and Board Chair Dr. Alan W. Edwards asked County Attorney Richard Railey if there was any problem with implementing the suggestion.

“No problem,” Railey said. “Just in the interest of fairness, you just need to let the public know that you’re changing that procedure so there’ll be no misunderstanding.”

The board voted moments later, and there were no votes in opposition to the change.

Referencing the new arrangement, Edwards said, “That’ll save some time, I think, instead of everybody waiting here half an hour.”

In a Tuesday, Aug. 2, email interview, Southampton County Administrator Brian S. Thrower stated that the public should arrive for future Board of Supervisors’ meetings at 6 p.m., but he acknowledged there is at least the potential that citizens could be waiting a while depending on the length of the closed session.

“Conceivably the closed session could run longer than 60 minutes, given the fact there is no hard start time to come back into open session,” he stated. “The length of closed sessions depend on the subject matter being discussed.”

However, he also noted that closed sessions may last only 5-10 minutes on some occasions, in which cases the board would return to open session at 6:05 or 6:10 p.m.

He indicated that arriving at 6 p.m. would be the best recommendation for the public, ensuring that it does not miss the Citizens Comment Period or other items on the agenda.

The change goes into effect with the Board of Supervisors’ next meeting, which is scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 16, at 6 p.m. at the Southampton County Office Center, located at 26022 Administration Center Drive in Courtland.