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County Rules Committee seeks options to improve meetings

A number of changes for Washington County Commission meetings are under consideration by the Rules Committee.
During the Jan. 20 meeting, Commission Chair Greg Matherly brought up RollCall-Pro, a wireless meeting management and roll call voting system.
“This has been in this committee for a while, but I think the system would have the ability to move meetings along,” he said.
The majority of commission votes are determined in group voice votes, with members indicating yea or nay. However, in all decisions involving finances or at the request of a commissioner, roll call votes must be taken. In a roll call vote, the county clerk calls the commissioners’ names one at a time in the numerical order of their districts, and each one answers yes or no.
In addition to taking a longer period of time, past roll call votes were said to have been influenced by knowing opinions of other commissioners who had already answered.
RollCall-Pro equipment allows commissioners to vote in unison from wireless key pads at their seats, and results are posted only after all votes have been cast on a screen large enough for audience members to read.
“As one who votes earlier, it would be nice to have the answers all at once rather than being one of those at the end who know what’s coming,” Commissioner Joe Wise said.
Commissioner Mitch Meredith made a motion, seconded by Wise and passing with unanimous approval, to authorize Matherly to contact the company for pricing and a demonstration for the full commission.
Solutions to the limited meeting space for committees also were proposed by Matherly. “One of the things we’ve worked with over the last few years is the number of meetings at night,” he said.
“This room can’t close until the mayor’s is open.” Matherly was referring to the conference room on the second floor of the county office building, which will not be available once the building is turned over for use as an archive.
Even when the room designated for committee meetings in the renovated section of the downtown courthouse that now houses the mayor’s offices is in use, a second meeting room will still be needed.
Matherly said leftover capital funds will cover the $2,500 in renovations necessary to turn the former courtroom on the first floor, which was part of the Zoning Department, into a meeting room that will serve all county offices.
Detention Center inmates had the room cleared of the judge’s platform and courtroom seating in one day, and by the end of last week were putting up drywall to section off the former jury box to serve as a storage area for zoning materials. A small amount of touch-up paint in the area where the seats were removed will have the area fully prepped.
“The room is already equipped with audiovisual and recording devices, it was painted not long ago, and we had the conference table,” Matherly said. “As much as we had invested, the cost for carpeting and padded folding chairs made sense to be able to offer a more versatile room for meetings or training sessions by any department.”
Another option for the commissioners would be to dedicate one day per month and utilize both spaces to hold all standing committee meetings in two-hour blocks.
“One of the arguments when setting times for (full board meetings) was that night is better for members with day jobs and the public,” Commissioner Robbie Tester said. “I think both of these would still be valid.”
Rules Committee members decided to include the idea as an informational item in the February meeting report for the commission packet and discuss it further during next month’s meeting.