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Berkeley Co. can't afford to televise meetings

August 20, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Efforts to broadcast Berkeley County Commission meetings on the Internet and possibly on a public access cable channel have been clipped by budget constraints, Commissioner William L. "Bill" Stubblefield said.

Stubblefield said a resident's push for the broadcasts in Thursday's commission meeting was a good idea that he has supported since being elected in 2006, but finding the money to make it happen has been increasingly difficult.

"We just don't have the money for it right now," Stubblefield said after the meeting. "We're looking for every dollar" to provide existing county services.

In addition to typed accounts of the commission's weekly meetings, audio recordings are currently archived on the county's government Web site. But the quality of the audio recording of Thursday's session, like past meetings, is poor and what was said in the meeting was not entirely clear.

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Stubblefield said he didn't know how much video broadcasting would cost the county, but would want a quality video recording to ensure the public is able to get a clear account of what is happening in the meetings.

"We want to be as transparent as we can ..." said Stubblefield, adding that he felt the commission has made an effort to be open to the public and hold fewer executive sessions than in the past.

After more than three years of Webcasting, one of the only video quality concerns with Jefferson County Commission meetings is the transmission of PowerPoint presentations during meetings, Commission President Dale Manuel said Thursday. The county also broadcasts planning commission and board of zoning appeals meetings and also archives them on the Web site. This allows viewers to watch them when they have the time, Manuel said.

Audio problems have surfaced occasionally since the county launched its meeting Webcam in July 2006, but overall public feedback has been positive, Manuel said.

"We've had our ups and downs," Manuel said.

Manuel could not recall exactly how much the county spent on equipment, but indicated it was relatively inexpensive and worth the start-up investment.

"It's a real great reference for the public," Manuel said. "Some people watch it religiously."

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