Some Hilton Head Island Town Council members now say they see the potential benefits of broadcasting their meetings. It's a welcome change of heart.
Mayor Drew Laughlin and Councilman George Williams said they realized the benefits when they saw how convenient it was to watch Beaufort County Council meetings online. Williams said he used it to stay up with the county debate over the Bluffton Parkway flyovers. He was able to do that without traveling to Beaufort.
They could also see that broadcasting the meeting didn't make a difference in the demeanor of the participants or the tenor of the debate, a concern expressed by Laughlin when the subject came up last fall.
The mayor still wants to determine the cost, but it shouldn't be prohibitive. The Beaufort County school board pays the county $22,500 a year to broadcast school board meetings and other videos used in classrooms over the county channel, the county's spokesman said.
Assistant town manager Greg DeLoach said options include buying equipment to record meetings and post the footage online afterward or paying the county to air meetings.
We're confident town officials can come up with a plan that won't break the bank and that will benefit residents and people from across the country who pay town taxes. Online streaming of the meetings would reach those people.
Hilton Head officials have long been among the most forthcoming when it comes to the state's open meetings and records law.
The town took a significant step in that regard when it recently added a "financial dashboard" on its website. You can review the town's annual budget, its audited annual financial report and monthly financial statements.
Whether the financial information is viewed by many or only a few, it is a valuable addition to the town's website. Accessibility is important and can be achieved relatively easily.
The same can be said of broadcasting town meetings.