WATERVILLE — City councilors on Wednesday will consider approving a policy that seeks to ensure people engage in civil and courteous discourse at council meetings. The policy was developed because behavior by some at various times over the last year has been disrespectful, according to city officials.

The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. in the council chambers at The Center downtown and is being held a day later than usual because the July Fourth holiday fell on Tuesday.

The policy councilors will vote on Wednesday says the public is invited to all council meetings and may take part by speaking during community notes as well as during discussion of items being considered by the council.

“Civil, respectful and courteous discourse and behavior are conducive to the democratic and harmonious airing of concerns and decision making,” it says.

According to rules laid out in the policy, people at meetings will refrain from commenting, clapping, shouting, booing or other inappropriate and-or disruptive behavior. They may not interrupt speakers, must refrain from having private conversations, should not address councilors individually and must obtain permission to speak from the mayor or presiding officer.

Comments of a personal nature about others may not be made; and name calling, threatening and use of obscenities are not permitted, according to the proposed policy. If the mayor or another presiding officer asks a person to stop doing so and it continues, the offender will be asked to leave and, if necessary, will be escorted from the council chambers.

City Manager Michael Roy said Friday that the policy, proposed by Councilor Lauren Lessing, D-Ward 3, seeks to ensure people don’t make personal attacks during meetings and requires those who speak to stick to the issues.

“People, of course, are free to express themselves about issues and items coming before the council,” Roy said. “We certainly have full respect for the First Amendment, freedom of expression. This is not in any way meant to limit freedom of expression and the right to speak. All we ask is that people refrain from naming specific individuals.”

He said some people have been disrespectful, and it started last year during discussions of the city’s property revaluation, when there was a lot of concern about the city budget.

“Unfortunately, it’s escalated at times so issues are obscured by personal attacks,” he said.

Roy said he and Lessing worked to develop the proposed policy, which Roy supports.

In other matters, councilors will consider a request from someone who wants to buy 19 Summer St., pay half the amount of back taxes owed on the property and tear down the apartment building on it, at no charge to the city.

The council earlier this month voted 4-3 not to sell the city-owned property to Brown House Properties for $19,300 and instead keep it. Roy said that the vacant, rundown apartment house would have to be demolished. The city took over the property in March for nonpayment of taxes.

But Roy said Friday that someone has come forward with a proposal to pay the back half of the taxes due — around $4,000 — and tear the apartment house down in exchange for the city’s deeding the property over.

“That’s a proposal the City Council has to consider and act on,” Roy said.

An item on the agenda asking the council to consider taking a first vote on the proposed municipal and school budget for 2017-18 probably will not be voted on Wednesday, as the city still does not know how much money the schools will receive from the state.

Roy said he thinks the council will postpone voting on the municipal and school budget if the subsidy is not figured out by Wednesday; and even if it is known, school officials will want an opportunity to talk about the figures before the council votes on the budget.

“Everything rides on the decision from the Legislature and the governor,” Roy said. “… It sounds to me pretty certain that we’re not going to know much by Wednesday.”

After Roy made that statement, the Legislature adopted the budget early Tuesday morning, including an allotment for school funding, and Gov. Paul LePage signed it immediately.

The council might take a budget vote at its next meeting July 18 and could always schedule a special meeting to take a second, final vote prior to Aug. 1, according to Roy.

“Otherwise, a final vote would be the first Tuesday in August,” he said.

Councilors also will consider issuing a secondhand-dealer’s license to Hathaway Mill Antiques, which plans to open an antique business on the main floor at Hathaway Creative Center in a space facing Water Street where the annual festival of trees is held.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: