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Berkeley County Commission meetings to be available online

October 02, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. -- Berkeley County Commission meetings, typically held on Thursday mornings, soon will be broadcast in real time on the Internet.

"I think we need to be transparent as possible," Commissioner William L. "Bill" Stubblefield said before voting Thursday to authorize the county's IT director to install equipment needed for Web streaming.

In a memo to commissioners this week, Gary A. Wine said the purchase and installation of cameras and other equipment in the commission's meeting room would cost $9,698.

Wine said Thursday the project could cost less, and ongoing renovations to the county's administration building at 400 W. Stephen St. afforded a unique opportunity to install as many as three cameras and new audio equipment.

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Because of a roof replacement project under way that involves the removal of asbestos, commission meetings that normally are held on the second floor of the Dunn Building have been moved to the county's judicial center and several county employees have been moved to temporary quarters elsewhere.

Audio recordings of the commission meetings are available on the commission's Web site, but Stubblefield admitted Thursday what is in place now is "not a very good system."

While hesitant to approve the expenditure amid tough economic conditions, Commissioner Anthony J. "Tony" Petrucci said the timing for the project was good and would be for county residents' benefit.

Commission President Ronald K. Collins left the meeting before the project was discussed, but Wine said all three commissioners talked with him about the issue.

After the meeting, Wine said he expected the project to take about six weeks to complete. With the county's available "horsepower" for the Internet already in place, Wine said he didn't expect the county's Web site to have a problem with a large number of viewers watching the live broadcasts online.

Wine said three cameras would allow viewers to see who is attending the meetings, the individuals addressing the commission and the commissioners.

After the live broadcast ends, it will be immediately archived on the Web site, Wine said.

Planning Commission meetings and other meetings in the commission chambers also could be broadcast, Wine said.

Wine said he assisted the Jefferson County Commission with the 2006 launch of their Web streaming system, which is used to broadcast planning commission and board of zoning meetings.

County Administrator Deborah Hammond told commissioners Thursday that money for the project was available in Wine's budget because of savings elsewhere and money also was available in the county's coal severance fund.

Audio clips of Berkeley County Commission meetings are archived on the county's Web site at http://www.berkeleycountycomm.org.

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