Belmont Selectmen want all boards videotaped and broadcast over LRPA

BELMONT — Selectmen will send an official letter to members of the other governing boards in town to better understand why their members are reluctant to be taped for Lakes Region Public Access.

They also suggested that next year's Town Warrant have an article asking voters if they want the the selectmen and the Budget Committee, Planning Board and Zoning Board as well as others to be aired on Lakes Region Public Access.

"If those boards don't want to be videotaped, maybe that could have some bearing on an election," said Selectman Jon Pike, a long-time advocate of taping all of the town's the meetings. He said the request for a vote would be one way to determine who doesn't want to be taped.

All of the boards in Belmont meet publicly except within the allowances made by RSA 91-A which is the Right-To-Know Law that sets out specific instances where a board can meet behind closed doors.

To the best of the Daily Sun's knowledge, no member of the media or the general public has ever been denied access to any of the Belmont's boards' meetings nor have any Belmont boards or committees ever stopped an individual from the public from taping them.

The issue is whether or not these boards can be compelled to used the video system installed at taxpayers expense after voters agreed at Town Meeting about 10 years ago that the town should spend money to install the system and broadcast their meetings on LRPA.

The problem for selectmen right now, is that there is no money in the budget for paying a stipend to someone to tape any meetings, including theirs. Depending on the availability of volunteers, the Board of Selectmen has been on-again, off-again with taping its meetings and sending them to LRPA. The town's other boards have not expressed any interest in being taped or broadcast over LRPA.

The topic most recently came up at a meeting in early February when the selectmen questioned continuing to pay dues to LRPA when their meetings aren't being taped.

Town Administrator Jeanne Beaudin told them that not having the meetings on LRPA was the fault of the town, not LRPA. She explained that LRPA will air any tapes sent to them, but only if the town does the recording.

Last night she elaborated for selectmen by telling them she learned this month that LRPA will tape any meetings, but the charge is $50 per hour.

Selectmen Chair Ron Cormier has suggested adding a stipend to the town budget to tape all town meetings, but said he would like to see all of the town's boards videotaped – not just the selectmen.

In early February, he asked Beaudin to ask the Town Attorney if selectmen can order the other boards to tape any meetings that are held in the room with the town's taping system. Beaudin reported last night that the selectmen's job is to manage the affairs of the town as set out by law but they do not have the right to order other boards to tape their meetings.

She reported to them that they could place it before the voters at a future town meeting but that it wouldn't be binding.