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West County Notebook

Board mulls ‘remote’ meeting participation

BUCKLAND — The state has recently come up with new Open Meeting Law criteria that would allow a town board member, under emergency situations, to join an open meeting by telephone or computer. But the town selectmen are concerned that adopting this new provision could end up being a lot of work for only a few rare occasions.

To comply with Open Meeting Law, the provision would require that a quorum of board members be physically present at a posted meeting. Telephone or teleconferencing participation would only be allowed if the board member involved was ill, had an emergency disability or could not be present because of military service. He or she is supposed to notify the board chairman as soon as possible of their participation by remote method. Also, the “remote” member must be audible to the public, and must be able to hear the proceedings. Text messages would not be a permissable form of communication. Also, if the remote board member participates in a closed-door session, no unauthorized person is to be in the same room with the absent member, where they might hear the proceedings.

“I see more downsides than upsides,” said Selectman Kevin Fox. “It seems like a lot of work for a very rare occasion.”

Town Administrator Andrea Llamas said this is a change in the law, but that it’s up to selectmen to allow it for all town boards. “If you adopt it, they’re all in,” she said.

Fox suggested bringing up the issue at an upcoming all-boards meeting, to see what other boards think of it.

Wi-Fi for town boards

SHELBURNE — Town offices in Memorial Hall now have high-speed wireless Internet, so that town board members, who frequently bring their laptops or tablets with them, can access information during their meetings. Selectmen’s Chairman Robert Manners said the wireless access requires a password, and that the information is going through a secure system.

Also, the town will soon be upgrading its website, so that it will become more interactive. Manners said the town will be able to post meetings, cancellations and snow parking bans as the need arises. He said these changes will take place over the next few months.

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