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Alton spends taxpayer dollars for transparency, will Belmont?

  • Published in Letters
To the editor,
Your June 4 edition carried significant coverage of the Belmont Selectmen's meeting wherein the board concluded that they would be willing to revisit their June 17 decision to withdraw support of Lakes Region Public Access (LRPA) television. A principle reason expounded by the Board for acting to drop out of LRPA was that they were unable to find a volunteer to film their meetings for later play-back on cable Channel 26.
I have information that may better able the Belmont Selectmen (and taxpayers) to decide whether they want to stay on television, or not.
But first full-disclosure: I am the Town of Alton's representative to the LRPA Board of Directors, which admittedly instills in me a bias, but also fuller knowledge of what is working and what is not.
Belmont apparently wants out since they are not getting their meetings and shows, with the exception of the Central Baptist Church services, on Channels 25 and 26. The church has a videographer so their recordings go to LRPA for broadcasting on Channel 25 without any hitches. The Town, however, without an unpaid videographer finds themselves dark on Channel 26.
Alton's experience might set an example for other LRPA municipalities. Since 1999 Alton's Selectmen meetings have been on Channel 26 and a year or so later the School Board meetings went on the air also. For years the videos were taken by volunteers, but in the mid-2000's the volunteers started to burn out. When the Budget Committee meetings stopped appearing on Channel 26 due to no one showing up to do the videotaping for free, a petition warrant article appeared at Town Meeting to pay videographers from taxpayer funds. The vote in favor wasn't even close.
Consequently the Town Budget every year provides funds to pay videographers to film the Selectmen, the Budget Committee, and significant meetings of the Planning Board and other public bodies. To date I am unaware of any taxpayer complaints that the $35 per shoot is not well spent. Alton voters rarely attend the meetings in person, but there is little doubt that they stay tuned in to what their elected officials are up to.
Alton taxpayers are willing to ante-up to have transparency in local government. Now the region will see how important that is to Belmont voters.
Bob Longabaugh
Alton Bay