New cable series to focus on government in Carroll

Commissioners appear on first 30-minute show

October 01, 2004|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

After a nearly two-year hiatus, the Carroll County commissioners are returning to television, with a debut Wednesday evening on a cable program focusing on current issues.

The three-member board taped the first show of the series, Issues and Insights: Our County Government, this week. The 30-minute segment, which will air six times through Oct. 16 on Adelphia Channel 19, includes board discussions on growth, education and emergency services and explains the rationale for the program.

"We talked about what the show will be about and what county government consists of," said Commissioner Perry L. Jones Jr.

In the second episode, which will air later this month, Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge and Steven D. Powell, the commissioners' chief of staff, will discuss key issues and the role of county government.

"Our plan is to have county government features and programming to highlight various departments," said Cindy Parr, special assistant to Jones.

Parr has been helping implement the necessary technology with Vivian D. Laxton, the county's public information administrator.

Gouge, who is host of the show, will frequently interview guests drawn from county staff. At a Cabinet meeting yesterday, she told the staff that she would be asking them to appear with her on TV.

"It is nothing more than a conversation with the commissioners," Laxton said.

The board members also participate on a rotating basis in a weekly radio program that is aired on WTTR.

Powell said the board is also pursuing the possibility of submitting op-ed pieces to area newspapers.

"This is an informational dialogue about what we do and why we do it," said Commissioner Dean L. Minnich.

The programming, which will air in the evenings, will bring government to those who cannot attend public meetings, he said.

"We are looking at ways we can communicate with people and help them better understand government," Powell said.

The programs are taped at the Community Media Center. By next year, however, the County Office Building will be equipped with video and audio technology so the sessions can be taped there.

Robotic or unmanned cameras will be installed in the building's two main meeting rooms, including the commissioners' conference room. They will be operated remotely from the media center, several miles away on Route 32. Recently installed monitors will also allow people attending meetings to see the charts, maps and graphics as the boards view them.

Once the technology - which costs about $230,000 - is in use, the county will switch to Channel 24 and air tapes of commissioner meetings, planning and zoning sessions, public hearings, zoning appeals and liquor board deliberations. The channel will also feature a community bulletin board that lists meetings, activities and events.

"We will be equipped and have the potential to tape all meetings," Parr said. "This is quite an undertaking and one that many other counties are doing. Television is giving us another vehicle to get information out to the public."

Government meetings are televised throughout the Baltimore area. 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 taped commissioners meetings in May 2001. Initially, Adelphia taped the sessions for free, but the company began charging $150 for production costs for each weekly meeting. Costs reached $7,500 a year, until the county curtailed programming in November 2002.

"The media center will handle the technology end for us," Laxton said. "We are purchasing equipment that connects to them and using their studios and editing equipment."

"Issues and Insights" will air at 8 p.m. Wednesdays, 9 p.m. Thursdays and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays. A new episode will be broadcast every two weeks.

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