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Ashe County Commissioners change meeting times

Originally published: Jan. 2
Last modified: Jan. 2

Adam Orr

In a bid to operate more transparently, the Ashe County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a measure to end its 2 p.m. work session and reschedule its meeting time on Dec. 19.

Commissioners will now meet the first and third Monday of each month at 1 p.m. in the third floor courtroom, beginning Jan. 6, and all meetings will be televised to the public.

Previously, commissioners had used the work sessions as an informal way to discuss current and future action items before taking formal action at its 3:30 meeting, but chairman Gary Roark said in previous interviews some residents had voiced transparency concerns to him.

“I've had a lot of people comment that they'd like to know what a discussion item is before we vote on it,” Roark said. “Which is a lot of the work that goes on in here. That is what a lot of the concern is about.”  

Commissioner Judy Poe said she supported ending the work session and said she hears complaints that the board goes, “into back rooms to do stuff,” and said holding only televised sessions could ease those fears.

Commissioner Larry Rhodes reminded commissioners that the decision was made to hold work sessions to shorten the length of general session meetings.

“I can go either way,” Rhodes said. “But I’ve not heard one person say we’re not being transparent. If you don’t come, that’s kind of your choice. My recommendation is just start an hour earlier and don’t even have a work session. Record it all.”

Commissioner Gerald Price suggested holding meetings starting at 6 p.m. to allow those who work during the day the option to attend meetings.

“If they don’t come I could then look them straight in the eye and say ‘Look, we made that adjustment. No more people came at 6:30 or 7 p.m. than came at 2 p.m. or 3:30,” Price said. “Right now I can’t honestly say that because I don’t know — we haven’t done it.”

Commissioner William Sands said he enjoyed the current work session format because of the openness its brings to commissioner discussion.

“I think people would be more likely to set down with us if it were not televised,” Sands said. I’m just thinking, would it be possible that we could continue with this on a more limited basis in the event we have something we want to discuss more openly without it being televised?”

The board ultimately decided to hold the meetings earlier in the afternoon to avoid forcing county employees to stay later in the winter.

“If ... they leave here and it starts snowing and they can’t get home, then that’s on us,” Roark said.
For more information and stories, see Ashe Mountain Times.