Transylvania County has expanded its efforts to provide citizens with opportunities to observe county commissioner meetings, and learn of decisions made during the meetings, according to information assembled by the county in March.These efforts involve several strategies which are designed for public transparency before, during and after commissioner meetings, according to county commissioner chairman Larry Chapman.“It’s important that people know what’s going to be discussed in meetings before the meetings occur,” Chapman said. “We want citizens to feel comfortable coming to meetings and contributing, and we want citizens to be able to review prior meetings at their convenience.”
To that end, commissioner meeting agendas are established the week prior to a meeting, and agendas are published in the Transylvania Times and posted on the county’s website. This allows the public to be aware of the issues to be discussed and allows time for them to communicate with their elected officials via phone, email or attendance at the meeting.Citizens who can’t attend meetings in person have the option of viewing the meeting on a live feed provided on the county’s website, www.transylvaniacounty.org. This live streaming includes all of the meeting, and also serves as an archive that citizens can access after the meeting.“It is surprising how many people don’t know that our meetings are streamed live,” Chapman said. “It’s a service we’ve provided for nearly three years now, and it’s a great benefit for those who can’t get to meetings.” Following meetings, the archived videos are available for viewing on the county website, and Comporium broadcasts the most recent meeting on its community access channel on Thursdays at 7 PM and Saturdays at Noon. In addition, the Transylvania Times provides detailed reports on activities at the meetings. “We are grateful for the public service that Comporium and the Transylvania Times do in providing access and information about commissioner meetings,” Chapman said. “We are very lucky to have the quality of media coverage that we have.”
Live streaming and recording each meeting was the first step in using technology to enhance transparency for the county. A budget proposal for next year to add Facebook Live will expand the ability for that content to reach more citizens. “I am excited to see the budget proposal from IT to have our meetings on Facebook live after asking staff to explore that option after being approached with the idea by one of our citizens,” Commissioner Jason Chappell said. County IT presented statistics in the 6 month report to commissioners that reflected that the County Facebook page has over 3,700 daily users and a weekly reach of about 28,000 users. Facebook Live usage has increased over 400% since it was made available for public use in April 2016. This feature will enhance the renovated county website that soft-launched last week that integrates social media into the site.As a final component of the transparency emphasis, county commissioners focus on approving and recording very detailed meeting minutes in a timely fashion. In many cases, these minutes are approved at the following meeting, thanks to the work of county clerk Trisha Hogan. Those minutes are then posted on the county’s website
.“We are proud of the work we do to ensure transparency in commissioner meetings,” Chapman said. “We think the combination of things we do give us a meeting transparency program that is second to none in North Carolina.