County Still Paying for Hearing Transcripts - The Missourian: Local News

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County Still Paying for Hearing Transcripts

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Posted: Thursday, August 22, 2013 2:00 pm

Other than saving ink and paper costs, the county’s new e-Boardroom system may also be able to cut the costs of having a court reporter produce a transcript of planning and zoning hearings.

Presiding Commissioner John Griesheimer said he is still unsure whether the new system is capable of producing a transcript but hopes there can be a demonstration at some point.

If the system could electronically produce a transcript, the county could eliminate the expense of paying a court reporter $75 an hour as well as other costs that go into producing the transcript, Griesheimer noted.

There may be an extra cost to use the e-Boardroom system to take transcripts, but it may still be less than paying a court reporter, Griesheimer said.

He does not know when the commissioners may test the capabilities of the system, saying they have not talked about it very much with other things going on.

The commission first needs to get the “kinks” and “bugs” worked out of the new system before it advances to the next level, Griesheimer added.

For instance, Griesheimer said the county recently had to upgrade its Internet service. The old service was too slow to adequately accommodate the e-Boardroom system, he said.

Savings

Currently, the county pays a court reporter $75 an hour to take a transcript of county planning and zoning hearings.

The county pays an Atlanta, Ga.-based firm called National Depo to produce the transcripts. So far this year, the county has paid the firm $5,418, County Auditor Tammy Vemmer said last Thursday.

The most recent bill the county paid to the firm was last Friday, and it was for $232. That covered $147 cost of the transcript, $75 attendance fee and $10 for shipping and handling. That was for the July 16 planning and zoning meeting.

The county is billed for the service by Midwest Litigation Services of St. Louis, which is an affiliate of National Depo.

County Counselor Mark Vincent said transcripts are taken at public hearings to provide a record in the event of appeals. This protects the county and citizens’ rights, he said.

A transcript is a verbatim account of testimony and evidence taken at a public hearing, similar to what occurs at a court proceeding, he said. This is different than meeting minutes, which are simply a record of what was done, not said, Vincent noted.

A transcript can be used to justify the county’s position in the event of an appeal, Vincent added.

Vincent said he does not know if the county’s new e-Boardroom system is capable of preparing the needed transcript record for appeals. There is no time line to implement that part of the system, and it will not be done without first making sure it works properly, Vincent said.

“There’s too many unknowns,” Vincent said, adding that he does not want to jeopardize citizens’ rights or the county’s position in appeals.

New System

The county commission has been using the paperless system at its meetings for about two months.

The system allows the county commissioners to view documents voted on at commission meetings over a computer rather than in hardcopy form. This saves printing costs, especially since the county no longer has to print out lengthy documents such as contracts, officials have said.

The cost of the system is $350 a month paid to the service provider IQM2 of Ronkonkoma, N.Y.

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