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Council working on their decorum

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The Afton City Council, and Afton residents, have always had contrasting opinions on issues, but recently these strong opinions have been starting to slow the meetings down and cause tensions to flare.

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Mayor Pat Snyder decided to address these problems at the June 29 council workshop when she initiated a discussion about proper meeting decorum.

"I have noticed that things have been getting difficult," she said. "And it's been going that way for a while."

Snyder said she was concerned about both the audience speaking out of turn, and the way council members behave towards each other.

Specifically, Snyder referenced the recent back and forth arguments and disagreements between council members Randy Nelson and Joe Richter.

"It's gotten a little out of hand," she said. "And we need to decide how we want to handle that."

Richter was not in attendance at the workshop.

Snyder directly referenced Nelson's tendency to keep bringing up past decisions and the lawsuits in order to make his points, and she said she felt that was not needed.

"I don't think it's productive to bring up votes on decisions from the past," she said. "We don't need to keep defending that."

Nelson defended himself by saying that when he references past decisions or the lawsuits, it is because they have some bearing on the decision at hand. He also defended his right to his opinion.

"We have a right to voice our opinions," he said.

Snyder said this had nothing to do with differing opinions, but the constant back and forth arguing that slowed down the meetings.

Snyder said if this should persist, they may have to look into following strict Roberts Rules by having everyone speak through her.

The council also discussed the audience members frequent speaking out of turn and disrespect.

The council specifically referenced the previous council meeting when residents of Afton Hills were speaking out of turn, and disrespectfully, during their discussion about the road reconstruction.

"It was nothing but moans and groans and comments from the audience," Nelson said.

Snyder said she will try to control the meetings better by calling on people and asking them to identify themselves, and if people speak out of turn she will start gaveling.

"I'm going to try and get a better handle on it," she said. "And if things start getting out of hand, I'll gavel."

Kispert can be reached at akispert@woodburybulletin.com

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Amber Kispert-Smith
Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.
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