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County may look at airing meetings
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Effingham County residents may be getting to see their commissioners in action — without having to sit in the pews at the county administrative complex.

County staff has been asked to explore what it would take to either televise or produce a live stream on the Web of commissioners’ meetings.

“I think it’s something we ought to look at,” said Commissioner Forrest Floyd. “We’re about the only county that doesn’t tape our meetings and put it on our Web site. I think it’s important.”

Floyd said he has discussed it with Chatham County commissioner Dean Kicklighter, and the broadcasts of those meetings have gone over well.

“There’s no reason not to,” said Commissioner Vera Jones. “It’s a good idea.”

The county has looked into it before, County Administrator David Crawley said, but there were significant hurdles in televising meetings. He said, for instance, if they went on a public access channel, they would have to fill the remaining air time.

“But streaming through the Web site could be done,” he said. “That’s something we can look into.”

Crawley said other counties have a camera fixed into position, so there isn’t the expense of someone operating the camera.

“It’s just the matter of the cost of the equipment and connecting to our system,” he said.

Tim Mathews said broadcasting the commissioners’ meetings, either on TV or through the Internet, would allow citizens to see the interaction between the commissioners.

“I would hope it would get more people involved and coming to meetings,” he said.

Mathews also said he served on a city council in Ohio before moving to Effingham and their sessions were videotaped. Citizens could purchase copies of the videotapes two days after the meetings.

“Technology is moving so fast and there so many things that can be done to get citizens informed or get them better informed,” he said. “They only get involved when it’s something in their back yard and it’s at the last minute.”

Commissioner Phil Kieffer also supported looking into airing the meetings, pointing out that some citizens may have to drive at least 30 minutes one way from their homes to Springfield or may not be able to leave work in time.

The county could have a Web feed on Ustream cheaply, explained Commissioner Steve Mason.

“The most costly (aspect) is trying to store and host it so it can be watched anytime in the future,” he said. “You can broadcast easily. You can do it by Facetime on your phone.”

David Harris, owner and president of eBusiness Solutions, said he recently conducted a live stream for Effingham Hospital and it supported 76 simultaneous viewers on Ustream.

“I’ve been able to download it from there and burn it straight to DVD,” he said.

Chairman Wendell Kessler asked for costs on streaming, since preparations for the fiscal year 2014 county budget will take place soon.