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Saturday, June 21, 2014

Nashua’s Board of Public Works considers more detailed meeting minutes

For the second time in recent months, Nashua Board of Public Works commissioners debated whether they should start providing word-for-word transcriptions of their meetings – a move that some argued would make it easier for the public to follow the board’s activities.

Commissioners Paul Bergeron and Tracy Pappas called attention to the issue Tuesday while reviewing the minutes of a previous meeting. ...

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For the second time in recent months, Nashua Board of Public Works commissioners debated whether they should start providing word-for-word transcriptions of their meetings – a move that some argued would make it easier for the public to follow the board’s activities.

Commissioners Paul Bergeron and Tracy Pappas called attention to the issue Tuesday while reviewing the minutes of a previous meeting.

Bergeron questioned why the minutes reflected only that a particular item was passed by a majority of commissioners, but didn’t indicate how each commissioner voted.

Recordings of the board’s meetings are available on the city’s website, but the written minutes of each meeting provide only a summary of what took place.

State law specifies only that meeting minutes must include the names of members participating in the meeting, along with the names of people who speak and a brief description of the subject matter discussed and final decisions.

That means each public body has discretion over how its meetings are documented. In Nashua, for instance, meetings of the full Board of Aldermen are transcribed verbatim.

Minutes of the Board of Public Works are generally less detailed. Pappas and Bergeron asked fellow commissioners to consider changing that practice Tuesday, proposing a motion to begin transcribing the BPW meetings.

Pappas said transcribing the minutes would make the board’s activities more transparent, since it can be cumbersome to listen to a recording of a meeting.

“It looks to me like we really don’t discuss anything, if I was just looking at the minutes,” Bergeron said.

Mayor Donnalee Lozeau, who chairs the BPW, replied that it can be costly to transcribe meetings, and would likely require additional staff. Lozeau said it takes about four hours to transcribe every hour of a public meeting.

“I don’t have a problem doing it as long as the board is prepared to cover the cost of doing it,” she said.

The motion was defeated 3-2, with Lozeau and Commissioners Kevin Moriarty and Tim Lavoie voting against it.

– JIM HADDADIN