Everything was set up as planned at 9 a.m. on Monday, May 2, for the first county Board of Commissioners meeting to be remotely linked to the Fessenden Center in Buxton so that Hatteras Island residents can make public comment without traveling to Manteo.
Susan Gray of the Fessenden Center staff was seated at a table at the entrance to the Activities Room with a sign-up sheet for public comment. Dave Waddelove of the county’s Information Technology staff was there to handle any glitches in the set-up.
At the front of the room was a large screen and, via Skype, we watched folks milling around in Commissioners’ Meeting Room in Manteo as the proceeding were getting underway.
“They got us all fixed up really nice,” Gray said of the county IT staff members.
Indeed the picture was sharp, but the volume wasn’t quite loud enough, and Waddelove said that would be fixed before the next remote meeting.
After county employee recognition, board chairman Bob Woodard made his usual remarks, beginning with the first remote broadcast.
“We are now live at the Fessenden Center in Buxton for public comment,” he said. “We look forward to having public comment from down there.”
First, county manager Robert Outten called on those who had signed up for public comment in Manteo, then he asked for comment from Buxton.
Alas, no one had turned up to be the first to offer comment from Buxton.
The commissioners set up the remote broadcast — at a cost of $5,900 — to make it easier and more convenient for Hatteras Island residents to participate in county government.
“Even though the attendance was poor, I’m hopeful this is something the Hatteras Island citizens will embrace,” Woodard said after the meeting. “This was the first opportunity, and I’m sure it’s going to take some time for the folks to get use to the availability to address the Board of Commissioners.
“Our board is committed to reaching out to the citizens on Hatteras Island and receiving their input via this service,” he added. “I’m very optimistic that this will work out.”
Gray said that for the first Board of Commissioners meeting of the month, which is on the first Monday at 9 a.m., an exercise class has been moved into the gym. For the second monthly meeting, on the third Monday at 5 p.m., two classes will have to be cancelled during the winter months.
The commissioners’ second meeting of the month is likely to draw a larger crowd to the Fessenden Center. It won’t be a remote broadcast, but, instead, the board will move its entire meeting to the building for a public hearing on a proposed special tax district to help pay for beach nourishment in north Buxton.
That meeting starts at 5 p.m. with the hearing beginning at 5:30 p.m.
The next remote broadcast will be at 9 a.m. on Monday, June 6. Perhaps there will be more interest in that one since the board has planned a public hearing on the county’s 2017 budget during the meeting.
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Now you can speak up at county board meetings without leaving Buxton