XENIA — The Greene County Board of Commissioners adopted a set of meeting guidelines Nov. 21 to make way for the installation of new video equipment.
The video system — including cameras, lights, and a timer — will allow regular board meetings to be taped and uploaded on the county website for public access. Currently, the public can access audio recordings of each meeting.
The commissioners generally meet for a regular board meeting at 1 p.m. every Thursday, or at 9 a.m. on Tuesday when there is a holiday or scheduling conflict. Regular and special meetings and work sessions are open to the public.
Taping the meetings will accomodate residents who are unable to make the meetings.
Although not a new idea this year, the push for video recordings came from citizens who felt that more community members needed access to the happenings of the board. In June, the commissioners and County Administrator Brandon Huddleson confirmed the project was now cost-effective and underway.
Huddleson said he anticipates to start using the equipment in early 2018 once installation and training are complete.
As a part of the project, new meeting guidelines for public comments were drafted over time and adopted. They’ll be posted on the website and outside the meeting room.
“Without those guidelines, it’s really a free for all at the podium and when you turn on a camera, sometimes people take that opportunity to pontificate on issues that have nothing to do with the agenda. So that’s the fear,” Huddleson said.
The county administrator said the board polled other municipalities, cities and villages in the area that also implement a video system in their meetings.
“We’ve talked about this in numerous work sessions and picked the pieces that were most common amongst others,” he said.
The guidelines for public comment instruct attendees to sign in before the meeting if they wish to speak. Comment is limited to three minutes for each person; additional time cannot be donate to others. Comment must pertain to items on the board’s agenda for that meeting; non-agenda questions or comments can be submitted in writing to the county administrator for consideration later.
The guidelines read: “Citizen comment at a regular Board of Commissioners’ meeting is not to engage in dialogue or debate an issue with the Board or County Administrator. The purpose of citizen comment is to provide an opportunity for citizens to address the Commissioners concerning pertinent items on the agenda. Commissioners will not act on comments except to direct the County Administrator to review a matter, if needed, for discussion at a later date.”
There was some push-back from meeting attendees Nov. 21, a few asking the commissioners to reconsider the rules.
“It seems to me that you’re limiting our right to free speech,” Dave Brown of Beavercreek said, “and our ability to have input into what goes on in Greene County.”
According to Commissioner Tom Koogler, the public comment portion of the meeting is not to be used as a public platform.
“We want to make sure that we are focused on our business for the day,” he said, adding that he is open to meeting with citizens outside of the regular business meetings.
Contact Anna Bolton at 937-502-4498.