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New Milford residents want more public access to government business

Nanci G. Hutson, News-Times
Published 11:37 pm, Sunday, January 16, 2011
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Local listings New Milford town meetings are scheduled to air Saturdays at 9 or 9:30 a.m. on Charter Communications public access Channel 21. For a specific airing date, call Tammy Reardon, administrative aide to Mayor Patricia Murphy, at 860-355-6010.
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NEW MILFORD -- Local newcomer Wendy DelMonte wants to ensure the community has easy access to what is going on in town government.

She has suggested more than once that the town consider posting videos of Town Council meetings on the town website so that people can see at their convenience what their elected leaders think and do.

For at least three years, the Town Council has videotaped all its meetings to air Charter Cable Communications public access Channel 21. The meetings usually air on Saturday mornings.

The mayor's office will also make a DVD copy for $5 for anyone who requests one. To date, only one person has, officials said.

DelMonte and others argued at the Town Council on Monday night that the public access programs are at times when most families cannot view them, and the meetings are often not shown in sequence or not aired at all.

Resident Jeff Winter said there have been large gaps of time when the public could not view the meetings and during the contentious budget season last year only one meeting was aired.

"Now that is not acceptable by any standard,'' Winter said.

In her research, DelMonte said, she has found several ways the town could have live video streaming of its meetings on the town website. She admits there will be a cost; her research indicated the costs could range from $2,500 to as much as $6,000. But she said she does not think that is a lot when it comes to guaranteeing "transparency in government.''

Council member Mary Jane Lundgren agreed that it may be time to consider ways to encourage more public participation in the government's business. She said she would favor the town's technology director coming up with some cost estimates on ways to offer a website option.

Mayor Patricia Murphy said the town received a top rating for going above and beyond the state's legal requirements by posting online all of its agendas and minutes. She said she is proud that the town can offer this courtesy -- as well as videotapes of meetings -- to interested citizens.

With new technology available, though, Lundgren said there might be ways to improve the town's offerings. Several other council members agreed, with council member Ray O'Brien suggesting there might be a way to do a trial run during this year's budget season.

"This is worth a look,'' Lundgren said.

Contact Nanci Hutson

at nhutson@newstimes.com or 860 354-2274.