Officials ponder return to TV

Commissioners hope to televise meetings again

Last broadcast was in 2002

Cost, audio quality noted as issues to consider

Carroll County

November 25, 2003|By Hanah Cho | Hanah Cho,SUN STAFF

The Carroll commissioners are making plans for their meetings to once again be televised - a year after the broadcasts went off the air.

The commissioners' representatives have been meeting with officials from Carroll County's Community Media Center, which produces local programming for cable television, to discuss bringing the meetings back on the air. But no date has been set for the meetings to again be televised.

The Nov. 21, 2002, county commissioners meeting was the last to be broadcast, said an official from Adelphia Communications, the cable company that serves Carroll. By then, questions had arisen about the cost of the tapings to the county.

When a new term started in December with two new commissioners in office, the tapings did not resume.

County officials noted a variety of reasons.

Commissioner Perry L. Jones Jr. said he and the other commissioners talked about continuing the tapings early in their term but had concerns, including poor audio quality.

"I think we wanted to do it, but we wanted to do it the correct way," Jones said.

County Chief of Staff Steven D. Powell said money was the chief reason the broadcasts stopped. The county was expected to pay Adelphia Communications $7,500 a year to tape the meetings and air them on Adelphia Channel 3, Powell said.

Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge said it was a "casual, more informal decision" to not continue the broadcasts. The feeling was "let's not do that now, let's get ourselves oriented and get back to business ... and make sure the meetings are advertised," she said.

Throughout metropolitan Baltimore, government meetings are televised. Baltimore City and Baltimore, Anne Arundel, Howard and Harford counties broadcast their council meetings.

In Carroll County, Manchester televises its planning and zoning, public works and council meetings. The county Board of Education also televises its meetings on Channel 21, the cable system's channel for local education.

The county began televising the commissioners meetings in May 2001. Initially, Adelphia taped the meetings for free, but the company began charging production costs of about $150 for each weekly meeting, said Chris Haugh, who oversees the cable company's operations in Maryland and Virginia.

In the meantime, said Gouge, who served on the board of commissioners during the prior term, she and her then-colleagues sought information on how other county governments produced televised meetings. But that, according to Gouge, never went anywhere.

Then she was re-elected and commissioners Jones and Dean L. Minnich were elected, and there was no "real good general feeling that we wanted to televise things," she said. "I'm not sure why, but the expense was one of the concerns with the budget as it was."

The commissioners normally meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays during regular business hours. Their community meetings, held throughout the county, and many public hearings on major proposals are held in the evening.

"Meetings during the day are important, but they're basically your basic, everyday running of the county," Jones said. He added that the commissioners are readily available for citizens' questions, and noted that residents can request meeting agendas and minutes.

"I think any concerns the public has had, we've been available to them," Jones said.

Gouge said she always assumed that the meetings would eventually be televised again.

"Once we got settled in, and had more information on the cameras and how we could do stationary cameras and how the media center would be set up, we would come back to the issue and see what we would do," Gouge said.

In the past two months, the commissioners' staff members and the county's Community Media Center, which produces local programming for the cable system's Channel 19, have been talking about the possibility of wiring one of the rooms in the county office building, said media center director Marion Ware.

They have discussed installing robotic cameras in the public hearing room in the county office building's basement and controlling the broadcast either from that location or remotely from the media center's new space, Ware said.

The media center plans to make a presentation to the commissioners early next year with a cost analysis of adding cameras and other equipment, Ware said.

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