PLAINFIELD — Local officials are trying to figure out how they want to record public select board meetings after multiple residents raised concern the practice might stop.
The Select Board recently decided to no longer pay public access channel Central Vermont Television in Barre to record and post its meetings. Board members cited the cost to do so and low viewership as the reasons for the change.
The decision sparked an outcry from residents asking for that recording of the meetings in some format to continue.
Alice Merrill, a former board member, sent an email to the board stating, “The videos are a convenient way to communicate town business and promote civic engagement. I am surprised that the board is comfortable cutting costs at the expense of connecting the community.”
Glenda Bissex made a post on Front Porch Forum also in support of recording. Bissex said she was happy to pay taxes for the service because the videos help her “feel more connected to my town government and appreciate the thought and study that go into making decisions, some of which I might otherwise question.”
Laura Zeisel said in an email to the board that she might support the idea of no longer recording meetings with CVTV in order to save tax dollars if the board were to meet in a larger spot “more conducive to public participation.” The board typically meets in a back room at the town office where things get cramped if more than four people from the public are in attendance.
Dawn Fancher also brought up the location of board meetings on a Front Porch Forum post. “Select board meetings are not very accessible by their nature and especially not when they are in the smaller meeting place. Video taping is essential.”
The board took up the issue again at its regular meeting Monday due to the vocal response from residents.
Monday’s meeting was not recorded — in audio or video. The only record of the meeting will be the minutes recorded.
“I would feel more comfortable if something was in place before something goes away,” Merrill told the board at the meeting. She again expressed her support for video recording, saying it draws more people in.
“I think this is an obligation the town has to its citizens. I feel really strongly about it because we need to stay connected,” Merrill said.
Board chairwoman Sasha Thayer said the line item in the budget that covers video recording of meetings also includes producing and mailing the town report. That item is budgeted at $2,940. She said because CVTV has increased its cost to the town, the town is short about $1,000 if it wanted to pay CVTV to video record meetings until the end of the fiscal year in June. Thayer said there is about $450 left in the current budget for recording of meetings that could be used to pay CVTV, or someone else to record meetings.
The proposed town budget is level funded for that item, and residents discussed the possibility of adding the needed $1,000 to it on Town Meeting Day to cover CVTV’s costs. It’s unclear what the money in the proposed budget would go toward if the town ultimately decides to no longer use CVTV.
Some ideas floated included: audio recording the meetings and then turning them into a podcast for easier listening; video recording the meetings and uploading them to YouTube; or posting a video on the town’s website.
No action was taken Monday, but board members said they would take the feedback they received and determine the next steps. They said they would try to figure out a way to video record the board’s next meeting Feb. 24.