Doing so is a good policy — the commissioners should try to hold at least one meeting each year in each portion of the county for this reason.
Therefore, we find it curious those same board members refused to allow the Elkin-area resident to participate in the meeting held at Elkin High School.
Anytime the board is going to meet in Elkin, it must expect opponents of the planned Fibrowatt power plant to turn out. Those folks have been quite vocal in their opposition to the plant, and the commissioners support of allowing the company to build near Elkin.
Yet the board, at the direction of Chairman Paul Johnson, shut down any attempted participation by these folks, eliminating the customary public comment period from the board’s agenda. The board went so far as to have the Elkin Police Department maintain a visible presence in the room, and Johnson threatened to have several people forcibly removed from the meeting.
The chairman claimed the decision to do away with the public comment portion of the meeting was in deference to school workers, who had to remain on the job until the meeting was done and the school was cleared.
If this were the case, tighter limits on a public comment segment could have been imposed. Instead, those in attendance were not allowed to speak, which makes the idea of holding a meeting in Elkin to spur public participation in government there a farce.
We have been in support of the Fibrowatt plant since the announcement that firm would be locating in Surry County. And despite the fact that some legitimate concerns have been raised — and not entirely addressed by Fibrowatt or the county — we remain convinced Fibrowatt would be a good corporate citizen of Surry County.
What we do not find good, in any way, shape or form, is the board’s heavy-handed way of dealing with the Fibrowatt opposition. Many of these people are Surry County residents, the very people the board of commissioners was elected to serve. Those folks deserve to be heard, even if the board members disagree with their positions.
If the commissioners aren’t willing to at least give the appearance of allowing these folks their chance to participate in local government, perhaps those commissioners should step aside and let others interested in community service take those board seats.