by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster
The room where Ashtabula's three Commissioners meet is clearly intended to hold a numerous public. Located in a historic and well-maintained brick building in Jefferson Township, gives the appearance of stability and community. Appearances can be deceiving.
Each time I have entered the lovely room echoes with emptiness, even as the commissioners, ensconced at an elevated table in the front, listen as the always numerous list of resolutions are read for their approval.
The titles of the resolutions do not convey any substantial meaning to the listener and no explanations are offered. After the title is read the commissioners are polled, and the yeas are counted. Discussion in the public meeting is as rare as turkey teeth. Discussion takes place in closed 'work sessions.' While I cannot confirm this certainly the commissioners must talk about these issues sometime.
Last Tuesday I attended a public meeting, where the opinions of those using the program could be heard. The commissioners had solicited the public on the subject of funding the county program which provides essential transportation for the disabled and elderly, Ashtabula County Transportation (ACT), who otherwise would not be able to get to medical appointments, buy groceries, or handle their other essential needs.
As I stepped into the room, which with the present arrangement accommodates around a hundred for seating, at 1:17pm. Three other people sat like small islands in a sea of empty chairs. The head of the ACT Program arrived later. This wait provided a break for solid waste management.
The one ACT user present had managed to obtain a ride to the meeting but was without transport for a return to her home. Others, facing the same problem, had not attended.
When the time for the public to be heard arrived the only individual from the media stood up and walked out. It was 2:08pm.
The focus was entirely on the cost of the service and whether or not to renew the contract with the present provider, MV Transport, located in California. On this point discussion did take place among the commissioners, but left the listener feeling this issue should have been researched in advance, in those work sessions, with other options already considered and evaluated. A deadline was now ominously approaching.
But the commissioners reassured those listening they were doing their best to handle the governance for the county. This may be true but provides no reassurance.