Letter: More to Taping Meetings Than We Know

Mendham Township residents clarify cost of regional school board meetings being recorded.


To clarify ... it costs $350 to rent the equipment for each meeting. He has to rent 13 microphones with stands, mixing board to accommodate all the mics, cables, table cloths so we are not staring at people's legs and whatever else he needs.

He does not use the station's camera, that is his and it's a "car payment" for him every month. He has to go pick up the rented equipment which is time and gas. He hires an assistant for $50 and they come two hours before the meetings, 5 p.m., to set up. Then records the meeting regardless of the length and breaks down after the meeting which is a good hour. 

After that, he returns all the equipment which is more time and gas. It takes him hours to download the meeting and adjust the sound so it's acceptable for air. So that leaves $300 for Doug to cover all the time he's put into it. If you do the math... it's about $20 and hour, if that.

Mendham TV only employees him for five hours a week so he has to do freelance work in order to support his wife and kids.

Additionally, Doug purchased one piece of used equipment for the board tapings last week, but said he can't keep doing that if the district isn't going to commit to the ongoing tapings.

He also gave Doug Pechanec the list of equipment needed and the money if the district wanted to purchase everything, which is approx $7,000. That figure would be a lot higher if the district needed to buy the camera and tripod that Doug Black provides.

Hope this clarifies things.

Dannah Asrejadid and Linda Alexander
Mendham Township

RGJ February 11, 2012 at 04:05 PM
Sounds like he is a fantastic recording engineer, but all we need is a barebones record of what was said. As I said previously, this would be a great ongoing project/course requirement for an AV high school class, at least as an interim step. Equipment purchased could be used by other classes. I suspect a grant could be found or or own fiery local taxpayers could scrounge up the necessary funds to purchase some good (not great) equipment.
kittykitty February 11, 2012 at 06:12 PM
Let's hear from the high school board on the possibility of this being done, then we'll know if it could be a reality. Meanwhile, let the taping continue...
Jack Schrier February 11, 2012 at 06:33 PM
Recording public meetings is an ongoing idea but in the end it always comes down to two things; money and public interest. Considering the cost in taxpayer funds for our schools, all of our schools, it seems an additional and uneccessary burden to add the recording and broadcast of these meetings. Mr Black is a generous and capable technician but if his requirement to "feed his family", as Ms Alexander suggests, comes first, then that is where his time and efforts would be best invested. That is pretty much what any responsible head-of-household does. If he chooses to donate his time or even some of it, that is noting but admirable; to compensate him for volunteering is to distort the definition of volunteering and is an insult to our all-volunteer First Aid Squads and firefighters. To my mind this whole notion of continuing to make a hard-sell case for recording public meetings is, as I said, superfluous. The meetings are PUBLIC so that the PUBLIC may attend them if they wish. I would be inetrested in an accurate count of the number of viewers each broadcasted meeting has. Maybe Nielsen can provide that data.
Russ Crespolini (Editor) February 11, 2012 at 06:53 PM
Here is a question for you guys, which I am considering making a poll for both my site and Jason's site. Would you watch highlight clips of the meetings on our Patch sites? Would you watch the entire meeting? The other night I experimented with the video and put up a snippet. Is this something you would like to see continue?
Joseph Keyes February 11, 2012 at 07:43 PM
As Mr. Schrier points out, these are public meetings. Re Ms. Asrejadid and Ms. Alexander’s post: Why do these meetings need to be recorded in such an elaborate way? Where will these recordings be used? Are not the minutes already recorded by a designated Recording Secretary? By webcasting them (board web infrastructure allowing), municipalities and school boards would be providing the public with an alternative to live attendance. This benefits the immobile, commuters, and those otherwise unable to attend a live meeting.
Gavin Leslie February 11, 2012 at 08:12 PM
@Joseph Keyes. I agree with you that the minutes should be a way for the community to follow and understand BOE proceedings. Unfortunately, they are not reliable. The minutes are carefully edited to remove any subject that the BOE does not want widely known. I have written to the BOE and complained at the last two BOE meetings that the minutes omit public input that voices opposition to BOE decisions; the opposition to the loss of the residents' vote on the annual school budget is an egregious example. Not only has the opposition been omitted from the minutes but the complaints of censorship have also been omitted. Minutes are a synopsis not a transcript but when significant discussions and public input is simply ignored in the public record, it is time to ensure a full record of the proceedings is availaable to the community. I agree that the goal should be a virtual meeting, using webcast technology that permits remote participation and not simply viewing. I wrote to the BOE on this subject and it was raised at the last two meetings but has been tabled for 'further study'. It will be interesting to see whether the minutes of the Feb 7 meeting contain any reference to this topic.
Gavin Leslie February 11, 2012 at 08:15 PM
The direct answer is yes, but..... Excerpts from the meeeting could be as misleading as the current BOE meeting minutes and equally misleading. A video of the full meeting would be excrutiatingly boring. Perhaps an unedited video broken into clips by agenda item would allow residents to home in on the important discussions of the meeting?
Gavin Leslie February 11, 2012 at 08:29 PM
As to cost, I record the entire meeting from a seat in the public gallery using a Sandisk MP3 player ($40) and a omnidirectional tie-clip microphone ($15). You can hear a sample of the results here: http://youtu.be/44kHIKs9ab0. Pretty good. That's Walter Cullen justifying his decision to strip residents of their vote on the school budget. If the mic were placed within the U-shaped tables at which the BOE sits, the results would be even better. As to attendance at the BOE meetings, comments have been made at the meetings and online that many people simply cannot dedicate an entire evening every two weeks to attend a BOE meeting, a Township Committee meeting, a township budget meeting, etc, etc. There would be no harm and very little cost to stream these meetings to the internet, record them for online access. Almost rediculously easy for audio alone and quite feasible to do with video using webmeeting software. The objective is to make it as easy as possible for residents to engage with their representatives, after all.
Joseph Keyes February 11, 2012 at 08:37 PM
Full participation would require a webinar-type setup. Maybe too expensive and not necessarily conducive to a school board meeting. I know that meeting minutes are a synopsis of the proceedings, but there has to be a medium between the 650.00 per meeting recording session and no interaction at all.
Domino February 12, 2012 at 03:43 PM
Mr. Schrier's comments are interesting, particularly because it is a complete turnabout of his earlier position on taping West Morris BOE meetings. It could be that the terrible performance of his pal Jamie Button has something to do with it. Or perhaps, it is on-camera moments like these that make Mr. Schrier conclude that public meetings should not be taped: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YB7xEKBTcVs
Jack Schrier February 12, 2012 at 07:10 PM
Mr Schrier has never been afraid of the truth, "Domino" (Is that "Fats"?). I was wrong and demonstrably so, regarding my mis-remembering. You failed to put up for public view the clip in which I clearly and appropriately kept my word and publicly apologized. In the interest of showing as much integrity as I, your posting of that would be a good supplement.
Russ Crespolini (Editor) February 12, 2012 at 11:14 PM
Folks, we're losing the narrative a bit here. We're bordering on insulting one another. I like the dialogue. I think its great and some of these ideas are excellent.But lets take care we are furthering the discussion and not just sniping at one another. @Gavin. Good points. But I don't know if a clip of material leading up to a vote would be any more misleading then quotes used in an article that would be printed on the site. But it is a fine point to consider, especially grouping them by topics.
Domino February 13, 2012 at 12:49 AM
Mr. Crespolini: I am not attempting to insult anyone. I am simply pointing out facts and have used existing videos to illustrate them. Mr. Schrier, in the third person, claims that Mr. Schrier "has never been afraid of the truth". Well, truthfully, I think it is clear that the only reason Mr. Schrier apologized is because his gaffe was caught on tape...which begs the question as to the significance of taping meetings. Mr. Schrier, please ask Mr. Schrier is he would have apologized if the original incident had not been caught on tape...because there are a number of similar incidents where Mr. Schrier behaved in a similar fashion when he was not taped. And no apology was forthcoming. And BTW Mr. Schrier, please tell Mr. Schrier that I prefer Art Tatum and Oscar Peterson over Fats Domino.
Prospero February 14, 2012 at 04:07 PM
Absolutely correct
HistorianWT February 21, 2012 at 02:16 AM
Domino, it sounds like you are from eastern Morris County, so you might not know that from 2005 to 2008 Washington Township had a "one and done" Committeeman named Kevin Nedd whose public statements were posted on a campaign site called "kevinneddsaid" and led to the biggest electoral loss of any incumbent is the 200 year old history of Morris County. Followed by a criminal conviction and life downward spiral. So not every elected iofficial is going to want a chronicle of his blather! lol...
Domino February 21, 2012 at 05:25 AM
Historian, what does that have to do with anything? Who cares?
Prospero February 21, 2012 at 01:18 PM
Domino's comments about Freeloader Schrier are absolutely correct.
Prospero February 21, 2012 at 01:33 PM
There are apparently several reasons that Freeloader Schrier doesn't apologize more often: first, and foremost it would deflate his pompous overly- inflated ego. Second, it would have cost Mendham Township too much money to purchase the necessary amount of video tape to record all the apologies he owes people he offended. It is remarkable that he said he was "very offended" by the Gravy Train quote, but he never stops at offending others. A true hypocrite !


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