Two councilwomen expressed fears Monday about a plan to return agenda-fixing sessions to City Hall Library in 2017, citing a chaotic scene that took place there in September 2015.
"People could get trampled," Councilwoman Bridget Rivers said as she recalled the situation. Rivers said the room has only one door, with another to the mayor's office usually locked during meetings. Rivers insisted all council meetings should take place in Municipal Court, which is connected to police headquarters.
She asked Police Director Carl Riley whether City Hall Library is safe. Riley said two officers will be on duty and will have a metal-detecting wand. (Municipal Court has a metal detector that people must walk through.)
Councilwoman Diane Toliver said Monday, "It happened to me - I was assaulted by a citizen."
Toliver said she was concerned not only for herself, but for everyone.
"I heard people say I acted un-normal when the incident happened," she said, then alluded to possible behavior of "abnormal people" before adding, "I don't think I acted un-normal."
Riley reiterated the safety measures planned for the site, but Rivers repeated her concerns about having only one exit besides a capacity of only 50 people.
Councilman Cory Storch said over his two decades of service on the school board and council, he recalled "only one major verbal altercation" at Maxson Middle School in addition to the council incident. He said meetings must be accessible to the public and noted the large parking lot behind City Hall Library. He also said the agenda-fixing meeting is a "work session" for the council. Lined up with council members on the dais in the courtroom, he said, "I can't see Joylette (Mills-Ransome) and I can see part of Charles McRae's nose."
In City Hall Library, council members sit at a large table where they can look across at each other, he noted.
Rivers repeated her concerns, saying "Sometimes we can continue to do the same thing and get the same results" and that the council has to "cater to all the residents of Plainfield, not just some."
"People will be trampled all over," Rivers said.
The meeting schedule resolution then passed, 5-2, with Storch, Mills-Ransome, McRae, Barry Goode and Council President Rebecca Williams voting "yes" and Toliver and Rivers voting "no."
The next council meeting is a combined agenda-fixing and regular meeting on Jan. 17 in Municipal Court. The first agenda-fixing session scheduled for 2017 in City Hall Library is 7:30 p.m. on February 6.