From Andrew Harris, 10/26/21
Not many people go to public meetings unless they are either being paid to attend or have a serious interest in a particular meeting. Usually these meetings are kind of dry; approving permits, paying the bills, department heads present their reports, and sometimes a member of the media is present and asks a few good questions. Occasionally the meeting has a hot topic, or even a controversial topic that brings in guest speakers or concerned citizens.
Tonight’s meeting of the Village of Wellsville was a little different and I attended as a potential new business, not as a member of the media. The meeting featured much of the same special permit approvals, zoning waivers, and paying the bills. But the meeting was dominated by a topic that is new, exciting, controversial, and really important. It doesn’t matter what the topic or subject was, it matters how the local government reacted to comments, concerns, and even arguments brought forth.
The Village of Wellsville started the meeting on time with all elected officials present along with the Village Clerk, the village Treasurer, and the Chief of Police. After buzzing through a few standard approvals and votes the Mayor introduced the hot topic of the night. Randy Shayler, the Mayor of Wellsville, set the table for the discussion by framing the subject matter and addressing the pressing issues of a fairly complicated topic. With the table set, Shayler implored discussion amongst the board members.
Board members discussed, the village attorney weighed in where needed, and the public was offered a chance to speak. Actually not just speak but have an open conversation with the board. There was banter, back and forth, short pontifications, and most importantly an active interest by local government to engage the public. Gary Pearson, a village trustee, talked to myself and other visitors like he would if you met on the street instead of a boardroom. Trustee Mike Roeske talks with a smile and seems to enjoy open dialogue instead of prepared remarks. Ed Fahs and Jeff Monroe, both village Trustees, made honest comments and looked you in the eye while listening to your reply. All very straightforward, interested, and polite.
I’ve been to plenty of local meetings that if the topic was at all contentious, the public or even department heads were given little time, if any to speak their peace. Often times, when the local board knew the questions would be difficult, maybe time-consuming, the illegal use of executive session occurred. I’ve also witnessed and experienced public officials treating pesky concerned or interested visitors as a nuisance and not taken seriously.
I’d love to report to you about the meeting on the substance but I will leave that to veteran reporter Kathryn Ross who was in attendance. As a lifelong resident and investor in Wellsville, my report to you on this meeting is purely on the experience. While my interests and the boards prerogative didn’t exactly agree, this was a great public meeting. The village of Wellsville is doing a fine job of running a fair meeting, providing all elected officials a voice, and most importantly allowing the public to not just attend, but interact.