Glocester councilor lobbies for new town Facebook page

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GLOCESTER –A member of the Glocester Town Council would like to see the board’s news posted on a new town Facebook page. How that would happen, however, is another matter.

“I think that Facebook is a medium that a lot of people visit and go on… to see what is going on,” said Councilor Cheryl Greathouse at the board’s recent meeting. “I think it would be a great medium for the people in town to really get a handle on what is going on.”

Greathouse noted there are many people who are unable to attend council or other committee meetings and that the site could be used to post agendas and more.

Councilor Walter Steere pointed out that there already is a town page available for residents, which includes meeting agendas, notices and other information. The council meetings are also streamed live on YouTube and are available for anyone to view at anytime, he noted, adding that there are other concerns in posting information from council meetings.

“I just have some questions,” said Steere. “If we are going to do something like this, first of all, who is going to maintain the site? Who approves content? Where is the content coming from? Who’s going to approve what’s put on? Not one of us. We have to vote to approve it.”

Steere posited that if information were put on a Facebook page it would come under public records and would have to be stored somewhere for public access in the future. Steere added that his biggest concern is who would maintain the site, noting that town employees are already stretched in their work duties.

“Adding another job or even staff is not ideal right now,” said Steere.

“I agree,” said Councilor Jonathan Burlingame, noting that councilors would have to vote on material to be placed on the site, and it would take time for that to happen.

“It can’t really be the speed of getting it out to people,” said Burlingame.

Glocester Police Chief Joseph DelPrete noted that his department posts information on a regular basis on their Facebook page. He said the page is maintained by Holly Dussany.

“She’s done a tremendous job,” said DelPrete. “I get so much feedback on it, all positive. I think the key to it is you can’t delete, it can’t be interactive, and you’ve got to maintain everything in software, and the other thing, the open records request. That is an issue and I’m not sure how you resolve that.”

Greathouse asked if Dussany was available and DelPrete responded that she could advise someone, but could not take on more duties.

Council Vice President Stephen Arnold said he felt the idea was a good one. People, he said, generally, simply scroll through various sites, but don’t “punch in” to the town website to find out what is going on.

“There are a lot of good things that take place in this town that nobody knows,” said Arnold. “I think it adds a lot of value. I think the biggest problem is the mechanics when it comes down to a municipality doing it,  and who’s doing it versus the principle.”

DelPrete said that the police information, including road closures or emergencies, goes out immediately on a regular basis and is seen by many people on the police Facebook page.

“The website, I think that is something in the past,” he added. “People don’t even look at it anymore. I think the concept is great. I don’t know how you manage it though.”

Arnold recalled having a committee in the past researching the possibility of starting a Facebook-type of page for the town.

“I think the end game was who does it,  who has time to do it, and some of the details we have to cover,” he said.

Greathouse said that there are a number of important meetings coming up and that eople should know about them.

“I think people are just totally unaware of what is going on,” she said. “People just have no idea.”

“Everything you said is on the website,” responded Town Clerk Jean Fecteau. “I don’t know how we change it up to put it on Facebook.”

“We’re all about transparency,” said Steere. “We want people to know what is going on. But, if you look at this, police department has a Facebook page, recreation department has a Facebook page…the land trust. How many more do we need? What we are doing is we are recreating. We’re copying and pasting what is there already. If people want to know what is going on, there is a way to find out.”

The council continued to discuss the way the potential Facebook page could be managed, how postings could be approved or not, and, ultimately, whether it could be actually created. No decisions were made.

“I just think it would be a great tool to engage the people,” said Greathouse. “Help to get the information out. Perhaps more people would be coming to the meetings or linking on to YouTube. A lot of people have no clue what is going on in their town.”

Arnold asked if just factual information could be posted there and whether there was an easy, viable way to do that.

“This isn’t just quick,” said Council President William Worthy. “This is literally taxpayer’s money on Facebook. I love the idea, but we all spend hours on Facebook looking at mindless things. We have a website already that shows everything. All you have to do is go outside of Facebook, go to a website that is already done and paid for, instead of updating every single day. There are things that happen every single day.”

He added the town does not have a point person, an employee in town, who has the time to sort all the information out and post and maintain a new page.

Arnold suggested asking the webmaster who oversees and manages the town web site what would be involved in creating and maintaining a social media page and addressing the issue again at a later time.

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