TRAVERSE CITY — Trustees at Northwestern Michigan College took a step toward increased transparency.
An NMC board subcommittee on Tuesday discussed the possibility of electronically recording their meetings. The board is one of the few public entities in Grand Traverse County that doesn’t already record meetings.
Policy committee members offered mostly positive comments about a potential change, but also voiced caution and weren’t prepared to make decisions without knowing more about similar approaches undertaken by other community and four-year colleges. They’re also worried about costs.
“If I thought there was a need, I’d be happy to do it. We don’t have anything to hide and that’s pretty obvious. But I question whether people are really interested,” said Susan Sheldon, NMC board secretary.
Members are still unsure of the purpose of recording meetings — whether recordings should exist to open the board to public review or to allow members to check back on what they said or what went on at a meeting they may have missed.
“I value the public input very much, but also think we make our meetings very accessible, and there’s value in encouraging people who have an interest in coming to the meeting to speak,” said board Chairman Doug Bishop. “I think there may be some value to an audio recording until you approve the minutes.”
Bishop said he didn’t want to be in the position mailing out copies of meeting minutes, and wouldn’t commit to posting them online. He said he still isn’t sure what purpose there would be to recording meetings, and said he needs more information.
NMC Trustee and subcommittee chair Cheryl Gore Follette raised the issue in September.
“I know there have been a couple of occasions over the last couple of years where I wanted to check myself on something I may have said, something that may have been attributed to me that I don’t remember,” said Follette. “I think it would be helpful on that rare occasion when you wanted to confirm your vote or what you said in support or against a vote.”
Vicki Cook, NMC’s vice president of finance and administration, presented a few options and estimated costs ranging from implementing Traverse City Area School’s recording system at $35,000 annually; to live broadcasting at $47,000 to $55,000 annually; to working with public access group UpNorth Media for $7,200 each year.
Cook also noted that audio recording the meetings would cost significantly less, and UpNorth Media proposed a joint intern program with NMC students who could record the meetings.