Commissioners debate televising costs

June 19, 2007|by JOSHUA BOWMAN

HAGERSTOWN - Four of the five Washington County Commissioners said they would like to televise their meetings, though some are concerned about the cost of doing so.

Commissioners Kristin B. Aleshire, James F. Kercheval, Vice President Terry Baker and President John F. Barr supported televised meetings when they ran for office, and all four said Friday that they still do. But Barr and Kercheval said more research needs to be done to find an affordable option for the project.

"I haven't really seen a good plan so far," Barr said.

The county commissioned a study in 2005 that estimated installing and maintaining a studio and control room for cable broadcasting could cost $500,000 to more than $1 million.

Another option, in which a company would install equipment, take video and audio feeds, and reroute them to a cable provider or the Internet, had an estimated cost of less than $50,000 per year, said Norman Bassett, the county's public information director.


Aleshire said the costs of live broadcasting are minor compared to the benefits it would provide.

"It boils down to making information as available as possible," said Aleshire, who lobbied unsuccessfully to add $50,000 to the county's fiscal year 2008 budget to televise meetings.

Barr and Kercheval said webcasts might be a better idea for the commissioners, who often meet for eight hours at a time.

"I don't know that anyone wants to sit through an entire meeting. If they could go online and just watch one part, that might be better," Kercheval said.

Baker said the county should consider meeting at the offices of the Board of Education or the City of Hagerstown, which have broadcasting ability, until they find a solution. Both the school board and the city televise their meetings on Antietam Cable.

Bassett said he and County Administrator Gregory Murray will put together a committee in the next few months to study broadcasting options.

"I know the commissioners want to do this sooner or later. We just need to look at the costs more closely before we commit to anything," Bassett said.

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