by Graham Sturgeon, co-editor
The Shiawassee County Board of Commissioners took some heat on social media this past week over the decision to remove the camera system that records the county board’s monthly meetings. Board chair Jeremy Root addressed the issue near the end of the Committee of the Whole meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 15.
Chairman Root explained that the free trial for the camera system had expired at the end of 2019, and that the commissioners intend to implement a new, better camera system in the near future. The plan is for the ad hoc Technology Committee, which includes Commissioners Root and Dan McMaster, to explore other vendors in order to make a recommendation to the full board in February.
Root emphasized that the cost of continuing with the old camera system – a one-time $250 licensing fee and a $50 annual subscription fee – did not factor into the decision to explore new vendors. Not everyone seemed to buy that explanation, though, as both Commissioner Marlene Webster and Tom Manke, the founder of the Friends and Community News and Views social media pages, took issue with the chairman’s rationale.
Manke was vocal before and during the Jan. 15 meeting, letting the commissioners know he would do everything in his power to make sure every commissioner is voted out in 2020 if the decision to remove the camera was not reversed. He called the board out for not being transparent, and he also offered to pay the licensing fee on the spot to ensure the meetings remain televised. Commissioner Webster made a similar pledge, which led Commissioner Cindy Garber to reiterate that the cost of the system was not a factor.
Chairman Root pointed out that, while he acknowledges the importance of the meetings being recorded, he would also like the new technology to address the poor acoustics of the commissioners’ meeting chamber, which hampers communication between the board and the citizens present. After a bit more back and forth, Commissioner Root offered to volunteer his seat on the Technology Committee to Commissioner Webster, who readily accepted.