In Alabama, the Baldwin County Commissioners are trying to decide whether to purchase a $2,783 machine called the Limitimer Pro 2000, in order to control their public comment period during meetings.
From the article in the Press-Register:
"The policy calls for public comments from individuals to be limited to five minutes, and three minutes per person for groups speaking on the same topic. In general, it is up to the commission's chairman, who changes every year, to enforce that policy."
Chairman Wayne Gruenloh finds it difficult to cut off a speaker in the midst of her/his comments, and has been known to let a speaker continue for over 20 minutes.
So is a timer necessary, or could the commissioners learn some skills and save themselves a few thousand dollars?
The chairperson is responsible for watching the clock, following the agenda, making sure meetings take place in an orderly and timely fashion, and ensuring that speakers respect everyone's time. Mr. Gruenloh might feel like a bad guy for interrupting speakers, but it's his job.
The chairman may consider using a hand signal to show the speaker that there are three minutes left and then one minute, or he may assign someone else at the meeting to do this. When time is up, the chairman may have to politely and tactfully interrupt the speaker and remind her to wrap it up.
The chair can say, "Excuse me, Ms. Jackson, please wrap up your remarks in the next 30 seconds." Or "Thank you for your comments, Ms. Jackson. Now we need to move on to the next speaker."
Yes, interrupting is awkward, but the speaker already knows there's a time limit, so the interruption is expected. And if a speaker is well-prepared before the meeting, she should be able to say what she needs to say in the allotted time.
If the speaker continues to talk, does not wrap up her remarks and blatantly disregards the chair, there's always the gavel.
It is not rude for the chair to do his job in keeping the meeting moving forward; however, it is rude and inconsiderate for a speaker to continue to talk and take up other speakers' time.