SNOW HILL – Officials agreed this week to spend just under $25,000 to begin recording meetings of the Worcester County Commissioners.
The commissioners voted unanimously to spend $24,509 to buy and install an audio visual system that will allow the public to access recordings of meetings online.
“I’ve been a proponent of this since before I was elected,” Commissioner Joe Mitrecic said. “This is a small fee to pay for our constituency to be able to know what’s going on in the county without having to take a day off of work in some cases and come down here on a Tuesday.”
According to Kelly Shannahan, the county’s assistant chief administrative officer, recording systems proved cost prohibitive when they were investigated last year at Mitrecic’s suggestion. A system like the one used by the Town of Ocean City, he said, would have cost $200,000. Recently, however, county officials spoke to Tom Taylor of PAC 14 in Salisbury. He provided advice on equipment that could be purchased and used to record meetings.
“We got some good information from Tom,” Shannahan said.
When Worcester officials came to the realization that someone would have to actually operate the cameras during the commissioners’ meetings, however, they decided to reinvestigate automated systems.
Though proposals last year came in at $61,229 and $69,450, Brian Jones, the county’s Information Technology manager, acquired an estimate of $22,009 this summer.
“Brian has reached out to ePlus and received a substantially lower quote based upon release of their new Codec system which no longer requires external media storage,” Shannahan wrote in a memo to the commissioners.
He said the equipment would cost $22,009 and installation would cost $2,500. The company, he added, would allow a 60-day trial period.
“If we’re unsatisfied they’ll take it back at no cost,” he said.
In addition to the initial expense, there will be $4,000 a year in maintenance costs associated with the system.
According to Jones, the system will use three cameras to record meetings. Two will be pointed at the commissioners while one will face the podium. The camera viewpoint will adjust based on whoever the speaker is.
Commissioner Chip Bertino asked how long the videos of meetings would be available online for the public to view.
Jones said they would be online for 90 days but could stay available longer if the county wanted to pay an additional annual fee.
Bertino also asked whether the recordings would replace meeting minutes.
Maureen Howarth, the county’s attorney, said written minutes would still be kept.
Mitrecic made the motion to approve the purchase of the recording system. He said if the public had been able to view the commissioners’ discussion regarding the case of Oliver, a feral cat that was euthanized, citizens might not have been so critical.
“Maybe it would have dissipated some of the negativity that was put forth,” he said.
Commissioner Ted Elder said he was pleased the commissioners had opted not to purchase a recording system last year when the cost estimates were so high.
“We’ve saved quite a bit of money,” he said.