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Costs factor into whether County Board meetings will be broadcast on WRAC 8

WILLMAR -- The cost of purchasing new camera equipment could be a factor in deciding whether or not the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners starts broadcasting its meetings on the local cable access channel, WRAC 8.

Another factor is whether broadcasting the meetings would be a good thing -- or not.

During the board meeting Tuesday, Commissioner Richard Falk said he wanted time to hear from the community on the possibility of broadcasting the meetings before making a decision. Falk said he wanted to ask people "if it's a good expenditure."

The issue will be taken up at the March 7 meeting.

By that time, firm estimates will be available from two different sources on the cost for purchasing and installing new cameras in the meeting room

One estimate provided by Rudy Vigil, from WRAC 8, put the expense between $19,000 and $24,000, depending on how many cameras are purchased.

Cost aside, County Administrator Wayne Thompson said the commissioners should also discuss the merits of having the meetings broadcast. He questioned if having meetings televised would discourage discussion.

County Attorney Boyd Beccue questioned if cameras would have a chilling effect on citizens who are appealing decisions, like potentially embarrassing nuisance issues, to the county board. Legally, Beccue said people wouldn't be denied due process because meetings were broadcast, but he said it could have a "chilling effect on individuals."

Commissioner Harlan Madsen said there are times when the board hears emotional and personal testimony from individuals, who could be affected if that information was broadcast on WRAC 8.

Vigil said meetings are public forums and information is part of the public record. He said the media is already attending the County Board meetings and can write about individuals and their testimony. He said it would be an adjustment for people who appear before the board to make but said it works fine for other organizations.

WRAC 8 currently tapes the Willmar City Council and Willmar School Board meetings for later broadcast.

The same could be done for the County Board meetings.

Falk said he hasn't heard one request to have the County Board meetings broadcast.

"I guarantee it'll be the number one watched program," said Vigil.

Commissioner Dennis Peterson said he's not opposed to broadcasting meetings but said other counties who do it question the benefits. He said some people don't speak their mind because of the cameras, while others grandstand because the cameras are there.

The commissioners have discussed broadcasting meetings in the past. The issue was brought up again this time by Chairman Dean Shuck.

In other action the commissioners:

n Discussed in closed session a lawsuit filed against the county by Jay Morrell Building Investment LLC over denial of a conditional use permit to operate a demolition landfill in an abandoned gravel pit in Roseville Township. No action was taken.

n Authorized Thompson to hire an architect to construct a storage facility on the Willmar Regional Treatment Center campus. Thompson also gave the commissioners an update on converting utilities in buildings at the WRTC that are owned by the county and by MinnWest Technology.

n Recommended that a conditional use permit given to Randy Kampsen in 2003 to operate a business involving used tractor and combine parts be revoked because conditions had been violated. Kampsen will be advised by the zoning office on cleaning up the property.

n Heard an update by Commissioner Harlan Madsen on a statewide committee that's studying rules regarding grass buffer strips alongside drainage ditches. Madsen serves on the committee. He said there are 18,000 miles of public drainage ditches in Minnesota with 14 percent required to have buffer strips, which can remove 90 percent of phosphorus and solids.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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