HANSON — Selectmen looked to the future of recording town boards’ meetings Tuesday, May 16 while bidding farewell to Selectmen Bruce Young and wishing him a happy retirement.
The Board supported Town Administrator Michael McCue’s recommendation that, effective July 1, all appointed boards and committees video record open session meetings.
The Finance Committee, Community Preservation Committee, Conservation Commission, Council on Elder Affairs, Recreation Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals are included in that list. Elected boards — Assessors, the Board of Health, Library Trustees, Planning Board and Water Commissioners — are encouraged to record their meetings, as well.
“Our goal is to achieve the highest level of transparency and we believe broadcast of as many board and committee meetings as possible helps achieve this,” McCue wrote in the policy draft adapted by Selectmen. Each chairman is asked to assume the responsibility of ensuring that meetings are recorded and that tapes/DVDs are provided to W-H Community Access TV for broadcast and storage.
Training will be provided on the proper use of equipment.
“What we’re trying to do here is be more transparent and certainly educational to the many folks who don’t attend these type of meetings,” Selectmen Chairman James McGahan said. “I think it’s a good idea. I don’t expect it to be perfect, but hopefully we can get people to take part and know what’s going on.”
Laura FitzGerald-Kemmett, who chairs the Community Preservation Committee, asked if the equipment would be stored at Town Hall where it would be readily available. AnneMarie Bouzan of the Recreation Commission asked if that board would be able to store equipment at Camp Kiwanee where they meet.
McCue said that is the aim, but that logistics have to be worked out.
Planning Board Vice Chairman Joseph Campbell asked about the potential for using cameras for site visits and whether new technology such as MP3 and other 21st Century formats could be taken by WHCA.
McCue said off-site use would be up to individual boards and WHCA Executive Director Eric Dresser indicated the purchase of newer technology is in the agency’s purchasing plans.
“When we’re shopping, we’ll be looking for that,” he said.
Former volunteer videographer Richard Edgehille said the filing of recordings is important to ensure an accurate record of meetings.
“Minutes are not accurate,” he said. “When I was on the Board of Health, sometimes I wouldn’t sign the minutes because not everything was there. A DVD tells you the whole deal.”
He asked if, should elected boards decline to record meetings, a ballot question could be brought forward to require it.
“You’ve got the people to account to,” Edgehille said.
McGahan said, according to Roberts Rules of Order, minutes are not meant to be too detailed.
“It’s a more precise record,” Selectman Don Howard said, noting that the Water Department used to have a camera on site to record meetings.
McCue said perhaps a by-law change could be considered, but did not want to “hang my hat on it.”
As he was adjourning the meeting, McGahan passed the gavel to Young to do the honors in his last Board of Selectmen meeting.
“I want to say thank you for your service,” McGahan said of Young’s 40 years of service to the town on various boards and committees. “You’ve been a big influence within our town government and on behalf of the community of Hanson, I want to thank you very much. … We’ve had our agreements, we’ve had our disagreements, but I still respect and admire what you’ve done.”
Young reminded residents of the Saturday Town Election.
“No matter who is sitting here next Tuesday, I want to wish those people the best,” he said. “This is a very difficult job in this day and age — it’s a lot more different and complex in the world of social media.”
A reception with cake was held for Young after the meeting.