NEWBURY — Municipal boards and committees in town are on notice: If they aren’t already doing so, they must begin recording and posting open meetings for public viewing, says the Board of Selectmen.
As part of a discussion on filling seats on the vacant Media Committee, Selectwoman Alicia Greco stressed that the committee must be comprised of an autonomous group of residents who will advise selectmen on media issues and manage public access content for the town.
She recommended hiring a part-time person to manage the Triton Regional High School channel and other educational content. The committee's charge should also include following up to make sure all municipal meetings are being videoed and broadcast, she said.
The idea is to shine light on how local government is working and to keep the public informed, Greco said.
“Sunshine kills mold,” she said.
Newly elected Selectman Mike Doyle agreed.
“That’s the way it should be. I totally agree with that,” Doyle said.
But Selectman Geoff Walker wondered about the legality of one elected board directing the actions of other elected boards.
“We have a policy in place,” Selectmen Chairman JR Colby responded. “People should be able to see what their elected boards are doing.”
In the state of Massachusetts, per the Public Records Law, all records created by or in the possession of a state or local agency, board or other government entity are open to the public and the media for review. Every record that is made or received by a government entity or employee is presumed to be a public record unless a specific statutory exemption allows or requires it to be withheld.
The Media Committee was one of three boards selectmen discussed Tuesday night.
A five-member Town Hall Advisory Committee will analyze the pros and cons of razing or renovating the building located at 25 High Road, which currently houses the police department.
In making its recommendation to selectmen the committee will consider both current and future needs of the town offices, as well as ensuring adequate handicap accessibility, and sufficient space for parking and document storage, selectmen said.
A resolution to the dangerous intersection at High Road, Morgan Ave. and Parker St. also is part of the panel’s charge. The committee will hold at least three hearings after the beginning of the next school year. Community outreach and effort to generate support for the process are also the committee’s responsibility.
The advisory board will consist of the three at-large members along with the town planner and a member of the Municipal Building Committee, which currently is developing a design for a new $6.5 million standalone police station on Morgan Avenue.
Colby suggested the panel provide selectmen with bi-monthly updates.
At their next meeting, selectmen plan to seat a five-member panel tasked with creating a prioritized list of improvements for the historic Upper Green.
Using public records created from meetings over the past few years with the non-profit group, GreenER, the panel will work for six months, holding at least two public forums.
For several years, GreenER worked with Verne Fisher of Visionary Landscapes LLC, trying to come up with an acceptable proposal to upgrade and restore the historic pasture on High Road. The team reportedly raised $50,000 toward the project and had plans to raise more, so that the upgrades would not cost taxpayers anything.
But selectmen received push-back from some residents, including the Historical Commission, who worried GreenER’s plan went too far and could negatively affect the green’s historic designation. The non-profit’s special permit application for the proposed rehabilitation was withdrawn in March.
Anyone wishing to serve on one of these new committees should send a letter of interest to the selectmen’s office, 12 Kent Way or firstname.lastname@example.org.