As the Alton representative on the Lakes Region Public Access (LRPA) governing board I was, of course, relieved to learn from Gail Ober's report in Thursday's Sun ("Gilford will pay 2013 dues to Public Access television") that the financial stress has been lessened in seeing LRPA stay on the air into 2014.
The report said that the Gilford board delayed their decision to see first what other towns were inclined to do. Specifically cited was Belmont "whose selectmen voted three weeks ago to not pay their annual fee because they have not been able to find someone to videotape their meetings for later broadcast." A detail that was not included is that the very frugal cast of characters in Belmont are looking to find someone who will do substantial work for free.
While Belmont is looking for a free lunch, the taxpayers in Alton decided years ago that they were willing to pay to benefit from transparency in government. When the volunteer videographers got burnt out in the mid-2000s a petition warrant article appeared at Town Meeting to authorize and appropriate public funds for the hiring of persons to film the towns' public bodies in action. To this day Alton allots $35 per meeting for the Selectmen, Budget Committee, and significant meetings of other committees to play multiple times on LRPA's Channel 26.
Alton is not a spend-thrift town, but the voters have made thoughtful decisions as to what is important to them, and transparency in local government is high on their list of values.
One surely hopes that transparency matters in Belmont as much as it does in Alton, and Gilford, and Laconia, and in thousands of other communities.