Beginning Jan. 27, Roswell residents will have access to written, detailed transcriptions of city council and some board meetings.

City council unanimously passed a motion to reinstate unofficial transcripts from audio recordings from council and committee meetings.

In addition to city council meetings, transcripts would be written for the Board of Zoning Appeals, Design Review Board, the Historic Preservation Commission and the Planning Commission.

Many details are not set in stone, however. Council members discussed specific issues, such as space restraints and who or what program will transcribe the meetings.

Council member Matt Judy voiced his concerns that there will not be enough space in city for additional staff.

“You don’t steal from transparency to fill this other need,” council member Mike Palermo said. “What you do is you have a transparency process and say, ‘You know what, we need more help in this area’ and do a budget request.”

According to Roswell’s city clerk, Marlee Press, the city at one point had two part-time employees in the clerk’s office who transcribed council and committee. Press said the employees were doing “minutes but they weren’t verbatim.”

Press said the records department received around 1,200 records requests this year.

“If we take (staff) away to try to get them to help do these minutes, it’s really going to take away our ability for transparency to get things done in our open records department,” Press said.

Press also said for when they used transcribe meetings, a three hour meeting would take about week and a half to be transcribed.

“I do support bringing back written unofficial transcripts,” Judy said. “Tying to run this through tonight without all the details on how were going to do this I think is less transparent.”

According to the Georgia Open Meetings Act, governing bodies must record minutes of their meetings and to make them available to the public for inspection. The act states the minutes must at least contain “the names of the members present at the meeting, a description of each motion or other proposal made, and a record of all votes.”

The city provides the public with minutes from each meeting, but stopped proving verbatim transcriptions in 2018. Mayor and council have not decided how they will reinstate the transcriptions, but will continue to discuss the details in the Jan. 14 Administration, Finance and Recreation and Parks Committee meeting.

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