The Ashe County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved changing the time of its twice monthly meetings as a way to allow greater access to the public.
Vice Chairman Judy Porter Poe proposed that the Board hold the meetings at 1 p.m. on the first and third Mondays of every month.
“The work sessions will be conducted during the meeting time, so they can be televised,” she said in the meeting.
The Board first discussed the change during its work session earlier in the day. Originally, the plans were to relocate the work session meetings into the courtroom so they would be televised.
County manager Sam Yearick in the work session said he checked on the availability of that room during the dates the Commissioners use it.
“Everybody I would imagine is aware that (the courtroom) currently gets used for jury quite often,” he said.
Yearick said the court sessions are set one year in advance and there were four dates where the court dates could conflict with the Board of Commissioner meetings. Those dates are: March 3, July 7, Sept. 1 and Dec. 1.
“I have heard some comments about transparency and this could definitely help with that,” he said in the work session.
Commissioner William Sands said he did enjoy the way the work sessions were working, but also suggested that the board meetings take place earlier in the day.
“I enjoy the work sessions, the openness and being able to discuss things,”Sands said in the work session. “I think people would be more likely to sit down and talk with us if it was not to be televised.”
Chairman Gary Roark said a lot of the concern on the transparency comes from whether or not the comissioners discussed the item or just voted.
“I have had a lot of people not able to come and then would like to know what the discussion item is before we come out there and vote on it,” Roark said. “They don’t have any idea if we discussed it or just went out front and voted. That’s what a lot of the concern’s about.”
Poe had concerns about how long the meetings were before the Board of Commissioners started doing the work sessions.
“I just think it’s a good idea for openness and transparency,” she said. “People complain all the time that we get in back rooms and do stuff. Here’s our opportunity. We have a room upstairs that is ready for us to be taped. We have room for everybody to sit.”
During the work session, Commissioner Gerald Price suggested that the meetings take place later in the day for a couple of months to “test the waters.”
“If they don’t come I could then look them straight in the eye and say ‘Look, we made that adjustment. No more people came at 6:30 or 7 p.m. than came at 2 p.m. or 3:30,’” he said. “Right now I can’t honestly say that because, I don’t know. We haven’t done it.”
The board decided on having the meetings earlier, due to concern of county employees having to stay late, especially in the winter months.
“If we start late and then hold (the employees) over here in the wintertime, they leave here it starts snowing and they can’t get home, that’s on us,” Roark said.
The new meeting times will begin in January.
Yearick said the landfill and convenience centers will close at 2 p.m. on Dec. 24 and be closed Dec. 25 for Christmas. The County offices will be closed for Christmas on Dec. 24-26.
The county offices, landfill and conveinence centers will be closed on New Year’s Day.
In other action:
. Approved Ashe County Arts Council’s use of the Ashe County Park for the Fiddler’s Convention presented by Jane Lonon.
. Approved the findings of the 2012-13 FY audit presented by Priscilla Norris.
. Approved members of the Local Emergency Planning Committee, Airport Advisory Board, Region D Development Corporation Board and Volunteer Advisory Board.
. In attendance were: Chairman Gary Roark, Vice Chairman Judy Porter Poe, Larry Rhodes, William Sands and Gerald Price.