By Alex Bridges -- firstname.lastname@example.org
WOODSTOCK -- The Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors took more criticism Tuesday about government transparency and public meetings.
Supervisors heard a report by Assistant County Administrator Mary Beth Price on a possible way to record and make meetings available to the public on the Internet. Price presented the board a software system that would allow the county to record the audio of the meetings and make separate tracks for each agenda or discussion item.
Chairman Conrad Helsley Jr. did not attend the meeting.
Before Price's presentation, at least two residents who spoke during the comment portion complained about the administration and board's practice of making only a summary of the meeting minutes available to the public. Quicksburg resident Paul Knauff first criticized the board for not upgrading its system of recording minutes and meetings sooner, then questioned why the administration has to go through the supervisors to receive the approval.
Later in the meeting Knauff spoke again and criticized the county for requiring him to go through the formal process to obtain information.
Vice Chairman Dennis M. Morris told Knauff that Price's presentation likely would address his concerns about an upgrade. Supervisors after Price's presentation decided to take the issue to their next work session.
Price told the board and the speakers the county can provide audio recordings of meetings on compact discs. The county currently uses a portable digital recorder to tape certain meetings. While the meeting room has a microphone system, the devices are not plugged in directly to any recording device, Price explained after the meeting.
Knauff and Woodstock area resident Cindy Bailey also criticized the board and the administration for the policy to compile summary and not "verbatim" minutes of meetings as they once did. Knauff and Bailey asked the board to return to having the county provide verbatim minutes to the public. Supervisor Sharon Baroncelli advised the board that Knauff had spoken beyond the usual three minutes afforded to speakers.
"The minutes should be verbatim, exactly how they are spoken here, exactly what you all are saying, exactly what the public is saying and the questions that are being asked that are not being answered because certain supervisors say 'we're done with you,'" Bailey told the board.
Elected officials rarely answer questions posed by a speaker during hearings or comment periods.
Supervisors at a previous meeting asked County Attorney J. Jay Litten to look into whether the board should craft a specific set of rules by which the public would need to follow in their meetings.
Supervisors' meetings at times have erupted with audience members speaking out of turn, during points in the session not available for public comment, and often Helsley or the next person in charge has had to call for order.
Morris on several occasions Tuesday night had to ask people not to speak from the audience. Knauff tried to ask questions of supervisors or make comments on issues discussed but was told he had his chance to talk at the beginning of the meeting.
Also at the meeting supervisors:
• Discussed documents required by the Department of Housing and Community Development for the Community Development Block Grant for the Shenandoah County Free Clinic project.
• Approved a request to rezone property at 23101 Old Valley Pike, Woodstock from agricultural to general business use. Patrick and April McMullen, doing business as Valley Collision, made the request. Morris lauded the business and its appearance.
• Discussed in closed session an award of a contract with Charterhouse School for educational services in the old Edinburg School and a contract with Caldwell-Santmyer for design-build services for the Edinburg School/Historic Courthouse project.
• Discussed in closed session the appointment of people to serve on the Department of Social Services Board, the Tourism Council and the Board of Zoning Appeals.