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Troup County Commission may move some meetings to afternoon

Alicia B. Hill
Times-News

On Thursday, the Troup County Board of Commissioners took a step toward improving transparency and making it easier for citizens to know what happens at county meetings.

The commission discussed adding evening meetings and publishing video recordings of its meetings online to make it easier for citizens to find out what happened.

“We have had discussion from folks about the meeting times that we have had here at the county,” County Commission Chairman Patrick Crews said. “We have had a longstanding tradition of having our work sessions and our meeting at 9 o’clock in the morning, and so in an effort to try to make ourselves available to the citizens that work, we feel like there is an opportunity for us to shift two of our meetings per month to an afternoon meeting at 5 o’clock in the afternoon.”

Crews said the updated schedule would likely include one work session and one commission meeting at 5 p.m. each month. County Manager Eric Mosley was tasked with determining which meetings would work best for county employees.

Representatives from the Troup County Democratic Party and the local branch of the NAACP approached the board of commissioners in July to request the change to evening meeting times to improve transparency.

The Troup County Board of Commissioners regularly holds two work sessions and two commission meetings each month, with the meetings falling on the first and third Tuesday of every month. The work sessions take place on the Thursday prior to the commission meetings.

“What we can do is begin looking at the agenda, and we’ll come back to you guys with a revised schedule for 2020 with the new time schedule built into it,” Mosley said.

According to Mosley, the new schedule should be ready to implement by January, but Commissioner Ellis Cadenhead asked if it would be possible to hold the first meeting with the new times for the last meeting in December. The Troup County Board of Commissioners is currently scheduled to meet on Dec. 3, 12 and 17 at 9 a.m. at 100 Ridley Avenue.

Mosley said certain events — like employee recognitions — would probably be scheduled for the 9 a.m. meetings to make the best use of normal working hours for staff and to avoid unnecessary overtime.

However, new meeting times weren’t the only improvement discussed on Thursday. The Troup County Board of Commissioners also received an update on a service that would allow public meetings to be live-streamed and viewed online both during and after the meetings.

“What we have going right now will definitely be a big increase in transparency,” said Valerie West, certified county clerk for Troup County. “We already have our agendas and minutes online, but what this will do is give people the opportunity to participate in and view meetings.”

The new software was previously discussed during the Troup County Board of Commissioners meeting on Sept. 12.

However, Thursday was the first strong indication from the commission that it plans to move forward with that technology option. The installation of the software will cost $14,340, which includes streaming online, in-person training, technical support and encoding software. The county is currently using the same company to make its minutes and agendas available online, which costs $10,914.60 annually. West said the new annual fee would be $33,450.60, due to a $22,005.36 subscription cost.

Once available, the technology will be available to all county boards that meet in the County Commission Chambers.

The county did not announce an official start date for the videos, but training is set to begin in November.

“The hardware required for the software to work with our agenda management software with live streaming and electronic voting and minutes should arrive by mid to late November,” West said. “That’s when initial training will begin. The training will have some in-person training along with webinars.”

West said that the number of days that the meetings remain online would be determined by state law, and an official procedure regarding that time will be established at a future date.

“I think the advantage of this is to be able to be more inclusive and more transparent,” Commissioner Lewis Davis said. “I think it’s a really good thing for the community, and I hope that the community supports us and what we’re doing here because this changing here is not an easy thing for a lot of people. But all of us are trying our level best to do what it takes to make ourselves more transparent and more involved in the community. That is what it is all about.”

The Troup County Board of Commissioners will meet again on Tuesday at 9 a.m. at 100 Ridley Ave.