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      Ottumwa Council says no to longer public speaking time

      Ottumwa residents speaking at City Council meetings will have to stick to a three-minute speech.

      Mayor Frank Flanders requested to extend the time allotted to public input from three to five minutes, but council members unanimously agreed that that much time is unnecessary. The council did not take a formal vote, since it was mutually agreed upon to dismiss the recommendation.

      The issue of more time for speakers arose when many community members showed up to voice concerns over a rezoning issue earlier this year. Councilman Jeremy Weller said the council already lets speakers go over the three-minute mark if need be, so giving them any more time than that would be redundant.

      "If somebody shows up and they have 30 of their friends and they all get five minutes, next thing you know you're there for two and a half hours talking and you're probably hearing the same information over and over again," Weller said. "And that's kind of where I was coming from was, if we keep it at three minutes and we have the flexibility to suspend the rules and allow somebody to go over, then we have that and we can do it that way."

      Weller said the council has been made out to look like the bad guy in this situation, but they are not cutting down on anyone's freedom of speech or hindering their ability to express thoughts and opinions. Weller said the current system has worked for the four years this council has been together, so there is simply no need to change it.