Equipment will be used to record Shenandoah County meetings
By Alex Bridges -- email@example.com
WOODSTOCK -- Open government and free speech advocates in Shenandoah County received reprieve but still aired grievances Tuesday night.
The county Board of Supervisors at its regular meeting approved a contract with EarthChannel Communications Inc. to provide media services that officials say would help foster an open government. The agreement calls for an upgrade of the audio equipment in the supervisors meeting room and the conference room where they hold work sessions and closed meetings.
Supervisors approved the contract with a unanimous vote. Later in the meeting the board heard comments from residents who lauded the county's efforts to upgrade the system.
Mt. Jackson resident Karen Kwiatowski suggested that "evidence of your thought processes, evidence of your decision-making, be made public, be videoed."
"You guys really need to be way more open in your decision-making and I think that [there] would probably for a lot more peace in the county," Kwiatowski said.
Van Holmes suggested the board record its closed sessions. Discussions of items other than those involving personnel matters then should be made available to the public after the board takes action on those issues, Holmes suggested.
In response to a question by Supervisor Sharon Baroncelli, County Attorney J. Jay Litten said the state's open meeting laws do not require the panel to record their closed sessions, but the regulations also don't forbid the recordings either. It's at the board's discretion, Litten said.
Kwiatowski noted she had heard a rumor the supervisors would call police to take people out of the meeting who speak out. Chairman Conrad Helsley commented later that no such rumor had been started by the supervisors.
The price of the equipment would not exceed $16,000 and the annual cost would be $2,295. The upgrade would allow the county to record supervisors meetings and work sessions through the audio system. The recordings would be converted and uploaded on a "cloud" server operated by EarthChannel, and the public could listen to the meetings on demand, according to information provided by Deputy County Administrator Mary T. Price. Equipment includes wiring of the current microphones and new microphones. The county currently records meetings with a handheld digital recorder.