The Summit County Council is now letting its members attend meetings electronically with the recent passage of the Electronic Board Meeting Policy. The policy has already been utilized as Council member Kim Carson attended last week's meeting via Skype.
"It provides us in the modern world a little bit of flexibility," said Summit County Manager Bob Jasper. "[Council members] have to make a living in other ways and they all have [other] jobs. Between their Council responsibilities, job responsibilities and health issues, there are times when it would be better that they participate electronically."
The policy requires that there is a minimum of two anchor locations for an electronic meeting one at the Summit County Courthouse in Coalville and the other at the Sheldon D. Richins Building in Kimball Junction. A quorum must still be physically present at meetings for any actions to be taken, but a member participating electronically can still make, second and vote on motions.
"When other Council members are traveling we [have] said that we shouldn't cancel the meetings," said Council member Chris Robinson. "Other jurisdictions have used [this policy] and the basic concept is that we have to have at least three of us present at an anchor location."
Carson, while serving on the Park City Board of Education, said that they had decided to implement an electronic meetings policy. It turned out to be very convenient, she said, and so she decided to try to find a way to get a similar policy in place for the Summit County Council last year.
"Most of us want to be involved and attend the meetings as often as we can," Carson said. "[On the School Board], no one took advantage of it in place of coming to a meeting."
Carson especially appreciates the ability for a Council member to contribute to a meeting even in the midst of a family emergency, an illness or a trip.
Finding a way for members of the public to monitor open meetings may be a goal of the county for the near future.
"We're looking at options over the Internet for broadcasting our meetings," Jasper said. He added that meetings are currently filmed for the website summitcounts.com, which is not county-affiliated.
"It's important for us to have our own source of information for the community," Carson said. "We would like to [stream meetings], and at this point there are a lot of technology questions involved."
"That would be great if we could live stream [the meetings], but that would require some hardware that we don't currently have at some expense," Robinson said. "It would be a public benefit too."
Robinson added that the current electronic meetings policy allows Council members to participate when they are not present but does not really benefit the media or the listening public in the same way.
Jasper said that allowing members of the public to participate in meetings was not the reason the Council enacted this policy.
"We're not going to open up our meetings so that anyone in the world can participate," Jasper said. "This was done more as a way to provide more flexibility occasionally to the Council."