People who want to weigh in on county issues without driving all the way to Okanogan now have the option of phoning in to the county commissioners’ weekly public-comment session.
After a suggestion from a Winthrop resident, the Okanogan County commissioners started the new call-in procedure for public comments this month.
Emily Sisson, who’s been taking notes of commissioners’ meetings for Okanogan County Watch for about two years, suggested making it easier for the public to participate when she noticed that Washington was considering ways for people to testify at state hearings without traveling to Olympia.
Conference-call technology is common for business and board meetings. “I started thinking about an application in this county,” said Sisson. The commissioners hold a weekly public-comment period on Tuesday afternoon, but they rarely get any comments, she said.
The commissioners and Laleña Johns, clerk of the board, were receptive to the idea and came up with a process after brief research.
The first caller will be transferred into the meeting immediately, said Johns. If others call, commissioners’ staff will take their phone number and call them back when their time comes up.
Callers will typically get five minutes, but that will be reduced to three minutes if there are many waiting to speak, said Johns. If no one else calls, a caller could conceivably have the entire half-hour, she said.
Attending meetings once a month to take notes for the county watch citizens’ group has given her a deeper understanding of county issues, said Sisson, who occasionally offers an informational comment when she’s at a commissioners’ meeting.
“It seemed like a no-brainer, but it hadn’t occurred to me before that this would be an easy way to do it,” said Sisson.
The public comment period is Tuesday from 1:30 to 2 p.m., except for the second Tuesday of the month, when the commissioners attend a Public Health meeting. On the second Tuesday of the month, the call-in period will start at 4 p.m.
Public comments will be summarized in the official minutes, said Johns.
The call-in number is the main commissioners’ phone line at (509) 422-7100.