Township To Video, Televise More Board, Committee Meetings

Mayor Phil Kramer has suggested increasing the number of township board and committee meetings that are videoed and televised.

The township will increase the number of board and committee meetings that are recorded and televised.

That was the decision June 13 by the Township Council, after the idea was broached by Mayor Phil Kramer.

Kramer said he was responding to a June 5 editorial in the Franklin Reporter & Advocate, in which it was noted that most every board that meets can have an impact on township residents, and therefore their meetings should be recorded.

“I thank that journal for starting the discussion,” he said.

Kramer responded to the editorial with his own editorial comment.

Kramer suggested the way to start the increased recording program would be to begin recording meetings of the Historic Preservation Advisory Commission.

He also suggested that a camera and digital recorder be placed in the municipal building’s large conference room, the site of several committee meetings.

The township currently records and televises meetings of the Township Council, the Planning Board, the Zoning Board of Adjustment and the Library Board on the township’s community access channel, FTTV.

These bodies, Kramer said, “spend money or make decisions that affect real things that happen in town, such as who’s going to build where, are you allowed to put a porch on your house, or large amounts of money that can be spent.”

The HPAC makes “real decisions,” he said, and their meetings should be recorded. The commission reviews plans affecting structures in the township’s historic districts, or within view of the Delaware & Raritan Canal.

Kramer said he would first speak with commission members, not to give them veto power, “but you never know until you ask, there may be some particular reason, I can’t imagine one, but there might be one, so I’m going to talk to them about that.”

Kramer also suggested installing a “ready-to-use” video system and sound system in the large conference room. He said he discussed the idea with Township Manager Robert Vornlocker and Justin Heyman, the township’s Information Technology director, and “hopefully we can move forward on that.”

“I could see a particular value” with televising HPAC meetings, said Township Councilman Ted Chase, (D-Ward 1), the council’s liaison to the commission.

“Applicants frequently come to the commission and find that they don’t have with them all of the information that the commission asked for, and they have to come back again,” he said. “If they’re televised, perhaps people … can be better prepared and have some idea of what the commission is asking of them.”

Chase said he had concerns that a camera wouldn’t pick up all the members of a committee sitting around the conference table, but they were allayed by Vornlocker.

A fixed camera on one wall would show the entire table and attendees, he said. There would also be a microphone and digital recorder placed in the center of the table.

Councilman James Vassanella (D-Ward 5) suggested that all board and committee meetings should be recorded to avoid some committee members from thinking they are being “picked on.”

“My feeling personally is that I understand the powers of the historic commission is moreso than some of these advisory boards, we get ordinances, or requests for ordinances, or changes or requests for big appropriations or sometimes it’s a small issue that costs little but it affects everybody,” he said. “So what I’m saying is, if you’re going to do this, it probably should be across the board for the documentation of it, understanding that we can’t put them all on TV. I think we should look at it as something of an all-or-nothing, so that it doesn’t create any controversy.”

The council also decided to let its administrative sub-committee decide which of the meetings would be aired on the television channel.

“It won’t be every meeting,” Kramer said. “We’re taking baby steps.


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