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Funding to televise county meetings still possibility

(May 29, 2015) While the dust still settles from the decisions made, but not yet fully ratified, for the county spending plan for 2016, an issue thought settled may yet get new life.

Early in the budget debate, the commissioners cut $65,000 in proposed spending to provide video access to their meetings for those unwilling or unable to attend them.

This week, commissioner Joe Mitrecic, who has spoken on this topic numerous times before, asked the commissioners to reconsider de-funding the project, and bolstered his request with a little needling other commissioners.

“If we can spend $30,000 on a fishing pier for 117 residents of Girdletree,” Mitrecic said, the county could surely find money to improve access to meetings for the almost 52,000 Worcester County residents.

Mitrecic was referring to a project that had seen both sides of the red line before being formally included in the fiscal 2016 budget proposal. When the county reconstructed the boat ramp at Taylor’s Landing, a bulkhead where the community had been fishing and crabbing was replaced with riprap, precluding those activities.

Commissioner Merrill Lockfaw, the sole commissioner to live in the southern end of the county and champion of the pier project had previously admonished the board for removing funding.

“The south end of the county pays the same taxes of the north. I’d like you to keep this in mind if you expect my support in the future,” he said during an early April meeting.

Lockfaw attended a meeting with Girdletree residents on the issue with County Administrator Harold Higgins and previous commissioner Virgil Shockley before the November 2014 election. Lockfaw had said previously if the board voted to nix the appropriation then he felt as if the board wasn’t being true to its word.

Lockfaw rose to the bait.

“I think it’s ludicrous at this time,” he said, criticizing Mitrecic for attempting to increase costs after the board had made “strong cuts.”

“And I take exception to the comments about the pier,” Lockfaw said.

Mitrecic attempted to make a motion to reinstate video funding, but was unable due to parliamentary procedure. Assistant Administrator Kelly Shannahan interjected that according to Robert’s Rules of Order, the standard rulebook used by governmental agencies, a commissioner who had voted for the defunding would need to move to reinstate the funding. As none of the members were willing to do that, formal procedures on the matter ended.

However, Commissioners Jim Bunting and Bud Church both mentioned having conversations about the project with unnamed sources and found the county may have options for pursuing some kind of video solution to broadcast meetings.

Mitrecic appeared satisfied with the status of the project.

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