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Water Education for Communities & Local Officials

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 Measure 2a: Hold a public meeting

ďConduct at least one public meeting to allow the public an opportunity to review and comment on the Stormwater Plan.Ē

If you do a good job of organizing a public meeting, the reward will be valuable input from people of all backgrounds and interests. In addition, you will probably find that you have a greater level of public knowledge and support for your stormwater program.

The Invitation List

You should invite everyone in your community who is interested in stormwater management (hopefully everyone)! Some stakeholders that you should particularly try to include are:

  • Minority and low-income communities,
  • Educational institutions,
  • Neighborhood and community groups,
  • Local newspapers, radio stations, and television news departments,
  • Environmental and outdoor recreation groups, and
  • Business and industry.

Meeting Time and Place

It is crucial to choose an appropriate meeting location and time so that your citizens will attend. The location must be easily accessible, able to accommodate the participants (and their vehicles), and equipped with the appropriate resources (outlets for projectors, microphones, etc.). Citizens who work during the day will have difficulty making a morning or early-afternoon meeting. Retirees, on the other hand, might be more interested in attending a daytime meeting. (You could consider holding meetings at two different times to attract a broader cross-section of your community). If you hold the meeting during dinner hours, consider serving refreshments.

Advertising the Meeting

Think creatively about how to gain your citizensí attention. Donít rely only on newspaper advertising to announce public meetings. Many of your citizens may not read the paper in that much detail. Consider using alternative methods such as:

  • Contacting citizens who have had stormwater complaints in the past,
  • Announcements in neighborhood newsletters,
  • Announcements at civic organization meetings,
  • Mass mailings,
  • Internet announcements,
  • Door-to-door visits,
  • Posters,
  • Telephone notifications, and
  • Multilingual announcements.

The Meeting Agenda

Take the time to carefully organize your public meeting. Start by designating a leader who is experienced in holding public meetings.

Set an agenda with times for your meeting. A possible agenda could be:

  • Present the technical stormwater issues facing your community,
  • Explain the Phase II stormwater permit,
  • Time for questions and comments,
  • Time for attendees to bring up stormwater issues of concern,
  • Discuss the volunteer community outreach program,
  • Select the citizenís group members.

You donít have to start from scratch to develop a presentation about technical stormwater issues! One option is to use all or part of The Impacts of Urbanization presentation already developed by the Center for Watershed Protection. Another option is to contact your local NC Cooperative Extension agent and see if he or she might be able to provide this presentation for you. Because discussing stormwater involves a lot of technical terms, you could display or hand out a glossary of commonly used terms.

During the question and comment period, the meeting leader must listen carefully, not interrupt, and acknowledge the points made. The leader should answer every question or promise to look into it and get back to the citizen if he or she does not know the answer. Because some people hesitate to speak in public, the leader might consider offering them the option of jotting their questions and comments on slips of paper to be read anonymously. If controversial issues are brought up, the leader should handle these as professionally as possible so that no one leaves the meeting feeling disregarded.

The types of Volunteer Community Outreach programs commonly used by other communities are discussed in this website. You can describe these programs to your meeting attendees and see which ones generate the most interest. The meeting participants might be able to get ideas about possible leaders for these programs.

The role and responsibilities of the Citizensí Group is discussed in this website. You can describe the Citizensí Group to the meeting participants and see if there is anyone at the meeting who is interested in serving on the group.

After the Meeting

You may want to provide a brief questionnaire for the attendees to let you know whether they thought it was a valuable meeting and if they have any suggestions for improvement.

A day or two after the meeting, the leader should prepare a news release that summarizes the results of the meeting and to distribute it to the local media.

Consider holding a public meeting later in your stormwater program process to inform the public and get their feedback about your progress.