Attendance will soon be optional for residents interested in Hilton Head Island Town Council meetings.
Council approved a one-year, $22,500 contract Tuesday with Beaufort County to broadcast up to 30 town meetings.
The measure was approved 6-1, with Lee Edwards dissenting.
The first council meeting will be aired July 6, according to town manager Steve Riley.
Under the contract, the county will broadcast the meetings live on the County Channel and on the town's website where the meeting videos will also be posted. The meetings will also be rerun on television.
The town will need to buy $11,500 to $14,000 worth of equipment, including four cameras and several video cables. Other costs could include $750 for each meeting after the first 30 broadcasts.
The Beaufort County Board of Education has the same agreement with the county to broadcast its twice-monthly meetings. The county has been airing those meetings since 2007.
The town plans to restrict broadcasts to the 22 scheduled council meetings and special called meetings, according to Riley. The county will film a "dry run" at council's July 1 meeting to test for glitches, but the footage will not be aired, Riley said.
As part of the agreement, the county will also produce five videos not to exceed seven minutes each about topics selected and written by the town.
Contracting with the county would cost less than the town doing the work itself, according to town staff.
Some council members are concerned the cameras will inspire grandstanding by council members and the public. George Williams, who voted for the contract, said he was a little worried the broadcasts would be used to publicize individuals' "little pet projects."
Edwards said afterward he didn't support paying for the broadcasts because he hadn't heard much public support for them.
Others, like council members Marc Grant and Kim Likins, said broadcasting the meetings is important for improving government transparency.
"I can appreciate the fact that some council members feel that if citizens really care ... they'll take the time to come and be here in person," Likins said. "But I also understand that people have jobs and other things that prevent them from being here at 4 o'clock, and they still deserve to hear what's going on in their community, just like anyone else."