Milford’s camera-shy water board

Commissioners resist having meetings filmed, televised

MILFORD – At least two selectmen are disappointed that the town’s water and wastewater commissioners are reluctant to have their meetings televised. Selectmen have talked about the situation twice recently, including last week with representatives of Granite Town Media, the advisory group in charge of televising town events and meetings. Water and wastewater commissioners have told Granite Town they would prefer not to be televised, saying it would be a waste of time and money to air meetings and that few people are interested in watching them. Granite Town Media disagrees, and representatives went to the Feb. 8 selectmen’s meeting to say the situation has left them confused about their role: Are they supposed to try to film all town meetings or are they not? "We have to be careful about setting a precedent," Chairman Tim Finan said. "If we start picking and choosing (meetings to cover), the whole point goes out the window. … Unless we do all the meetings, it’s pointless." For example, he said, "If the Planning Board is facing an awkward conversation," can the board tell Granite Town not to televise a meeting? Selectmen Kevin Federico and Gary Daniels backed him up, but no one seemed to think the Board of Selectmen has the authority to tell another elected board what to do in such a case. Granite Town is supposed to cover as many meetings as possible and get the content on TV, and water commissioners are part of that, said Federico, who is the selectmen’s representative to Granite Town. No one is suggesting that anything is going wrong at the water commission, he said, but many people watch municipal meetings to learn how the town operates. The Milford Water and Wastewater Commission oversees the public water supply and the wastewater treatment system, and its funds come from water and sewer users. Mike Putnam, a selectman who is also a waterwastewater commissioner, said their biggest concern is cost. "Our last meeting was 20 minutes. … I don’t think our meetings are valuable enough" to justify the cost, "and if people started watching, they’d agree," he said. "We are as transparent as they come. Anyone can come to our meetings." But Daniels said Granite Town’s job is to educate voters, and the cost to televise meetings isn’t paid by taxpayers, but from cable franchise fees. "I see the value" in recording all meetings, he said. "You can’t put a monetary value on it – it’s priceless." Granite Town also talked about the experience gained by high school students who learn how operate the video equipment and deal with town officials. Everyone agreed that the water commissioners can’t block Granite Town from televising the meetings, and the two boards will continue to talk about the issue.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.