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CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE — Those with an interest in county government may soon be able to watch the meetings of the Cape May County Board of Chosen Freeholders from home, under a proposal to video record the meetings to be posted online.

At the caucus meeting of the freeholder board Tuesday, Freeholder Jeffrey Pierson revived the idea, saying it’s time to implement it. There seemed to be a consensus in support.

According to Pierson, the idea had been rejected in the past, or at least not pursued.

“I’d like to bring that up and ask for some kind of consensus that we move forward with this,” Pierson said. “I know we’ve discussed it previously. Some of the things that we discussed were ‘Well, people are going to grandstand.’ Well, I think that’ll happen anyway whether there’s videotaping or there isn’t.”

He suggested the videos could be posted to the county website or otherwise aired or posted.

“I think it’s about time to do this and make us more accessible to the public,” he said. Some county residents may have a difficult time coming to meetings but remain interested in county government, Pierson said. Rather than streaming meetings live, he said they could be posted the next day.

Freeholders Will Morey and E. Marie Hayes spoke in favor of the idea, which was not made as a motion or up for a vote. Neither Freeholder Director Gerald Thornton nor Freeholder Leonard Desiderio committed to the idea at the meeting, but each said afterward they have no problem with recording the meetings.

Thornton, who is running for reelection this year, said after the meeting there is already a time limit on public comments, which would prevent some from trying to monopolize a meeting, but added he rarely stops a speaker. He said he would not mind if county residents could watch the meetings online.

“It’s called democracy,” he said.

The next step is unclear. Thornton requested more information. During the meeting, he expressed concern about how long the county would be required to keep copies of the video, suggesting that could end up being an expensive prospect.

Pierson suggested recording the meetings could end up costing some money, as it did in Upper Township, where he formerly served as a township committeeman. That township records its meetings and posts them to YouTube. Links to the meetings can be found on the township website. An average meeting from January showed 16 views on the video sharing website.

The township’s online archive goes back to 2015.

Hayes, who also is seeking reelection this year, said requests to record meetings have been made several times at the county’s coffee chats, informal events where residents can meet county representatives.

Morey said if board members feel good about what they’re doing for the community, the video would be a way for residents to learn about it. Sometimes the cameras will capture an argument among officials or criticism from the public.

“There’s hot points from time to time, but, hey, that’s all part of life,” he said.

Elizabeth Bozelli, clerk of the freeholder board and county administrator, said she contacted the New Jersey Association of Counties and learned that of the 21 counties in the state, five video record their public meetings.

She said she occasionally gets requests to review the audiotapes of meetings, which are a public record.

Among municipalities in the county, some take video and some do not. Ocean City first contracted to record and televise its City Council meetings in 1998, city spokesman Doug Bergen said. Just Right TV Productions of Mays Landing has the current contract for council and school board meetings with an hourly rate varying from $60 to $270 for different tasks. Meetings are aired on government access Channel 97 on Saturday mornings and Monday evenings after the event and are posted to YouTube with a link on the city website close to the posted agenda and minutes. An online archive goes back to November 2011.

In Lower Township, Executive Administrative Assistant Eileen Kries takes the video herself and uploads it to YouTube. She’s done it for about a decade, originally recording the meetings on DVDs. She said there have occasionally been problems, including mechanical failures and residents addressing the camera instead of officials, but they have been rare. She said the videos allow more people to see special presentations by officials, such as recognizing new Eagle Scouts or swearing in police officers.

Lower Township Clerk Julie Picard said the township keeps electronic records far longer than the law requires. She said that under New Jersey law, visual or audio recordings are to be retained until the minutes of the meeting are formally approved or for 80 days after the meeting, whichever is longer. The minutes are then retained.

“The minutes are a permanent record. They’re forever,” she said.

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