PEG Commission moves forward after recent budget cuts

MANISTEE — With the growing age of technology at the fingertips of virtually anyone, the demand for direct access to public information has not diminished. However, creating a path to provide this access is not necessarily an easy process.

For decades, the Public, Education and Government Commission (PEG) has served as a local source to broadcast public hearing and meetings. PEG also operates the TV2 public access television station.

Providing different mediums for the content to be accessed, including both the internet and cable TV, PEG has acted as bridge to allow for governmental matters to be readily available to the public.

LIND

LIND

However, after facing a recent reduction in funds, the PEG Commission is refocusing its mission. Barry Lind, chair of the PEG Commission, said members are currently working on a strategic plan with hopes to cover as many meetings as possible moving forward.

“We envision ourselves as the means that as many meetings as possible get videotaped and then archived,” Lind said. “If our people have no connection to what our government is doing, that’s not democracy anymore. I want to make sure the whole public is informed.”

During the Manistee City Council’s 2017-2018 meeting on May 2 — when the budget was approved — the council reduced appropriations for various organizations.

Thad Taylor, city manager, said City Council’s priorities were to produce a balanced budget without using fund reserves. Based on staff reports, the budget was originally over by $50,000, which led to decreasing appropriation funds.

“We looked at a number of areas where we might cut to maybe achieve some savings,” Taylor said. “One of the things we looked at was the appropriations the council gives out on an annual basis because it’s a good sized number.”

As a result, PEG was one of the cuts made in the budget. The commission was reduced by $25,000, accounting for nearly two-thirds of its funding.

In the future, the city staff plans on buying equipment to broadcast and record meetings.

“Our hope is for less than $25,000, with one annual allocation we would have enough money to tape our own meetings going forward,” Taylor said. “This will provide a higher level in transparency for the community if they are interested in it.”

Currently, both Manistee Township and Filer Township provide funds to the PEG Commission. Terry Walker, Filer Township supervisor, said the township board approved a $5,000 contribution to PEG at the March meeting.

“At this point in time, we plan to continue to support PEG as we feel it is worthwhile to have them tape our board meetings, so our constituents can stay abreast of what’s going on in the township,” Walker said.

As PEG moves forward with planning, Lind said there is room for the commission to build more partnerships with the community and evaluate options to generate more funds in providing its public service.

This could result in administrating fees or terms for all parties interested in PEG’s services.

“We need to develop new revenue sources to essentially replace what we have lost through the city,” Lind said. “That probably means more fees for service. They need to be recorded, but it’s going to cost (a specific) amount per meeting.”

The ongoing challenge is to target ways to make content and PEG’s services relevant.

“Already, the public does not have a lot of access to what the government does,” Lind said. “There’s a piece of it where (the public) needs to have interest, and they need access. I believe PEG has a role in making that possible.”

The PEG Commission plans to discuss future opportunities at 6 p.m. on June 5 in the Manistee High School conference room during its next general meeting.

“PEG is still going to be around,” Lind said. “We want to make sure the whole process is smooth, meaning we maintain an informed public about the interactions of their elected officials.”

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Posted by Ashlyn Korienek

Ashlyn is the cops & courts and city reporter for the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach her at (231) 398-3109 or akorienek@pioneergroup.com

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