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Pasco telephone town hall meeting idea put on hold

DADE CITY — Pasco commissioners on Friday put the idea of a telephone town hall meeting on hold, at least for now.

Officials had been considering hosting the conference call-style meetings as a way to generate more interest in public meetings. But several commissioners said they could not justify the extra cost of the meetings and suggested cheaper ways to reach the public.

"I don't want to spend money on making phone calls to tell people about what we're doing," said Commissioner Jack Mariano.

Several commissioners were initially receptive to the idea at a workshop on Tuesday. But Commissioner Ted Schrader, who was not at the workshop, said Friday it would be hard to explain to people the reason for the calls when the county is cutting important programs.

Commissioner Henry Wilson, who earlier was open to the proposal, said Friday he wants to wait several months to see if the county's budget improves.

Under a proposal discussed at the workshop this week, county staffers would call 85,000 people on a county database while a private company would handle incoming calls. That plan would cost roughly $11,000, but was dropped from consideration for cost reasons.

Friday's proposal included three options. For a countywide hearing, officials would send 10,000 phone numbers to the vendor, which would manage the calls and allow people to ask questions. An estimated 2,000 people would stay on the call. Such a meeting would cost $3,500.

Smaller meetings tailored to commission districts with about 200 people on the call would cost about $900 each.

Under the third option, county staffers would call everyone on the county database to promote future televised meetings and also invite people to call in with questions. That plan would not allow people to listen to the meeting on the phone. It would cost $5,500.

The telephone meeting was slated to be held in conjunction with meetings in April when residents can give input on the county budget. Officials will host three traditional meetings, including one that will be televised.

"We know that the public meetings aren't generating a lot of activity," said commission chairwoman Ann Hildebrand. "Is it apathy? I don't know."

Mariano suggested promoting meetings using social networking sites such as Facebook. He said that is a cheaper option that has the possibility of reaching more people.

>>fast facts

Upcoming county budget meetings:

• 7-9 p.m. April 7, law enforcement conference room, Pasco-Hernando Community College east campus, 36727 Blanton Road, Dade City.

• 7-9 p.m., April 12, commission chambers, West Pasco Government Center, 7530 Little Road, New Port Richey. *

• 7-9 p.m., April 14, performing arts center, Pasco-Hernando Community College west campus, 10230 Ridge Road, New Port Richey.

* meeting will be televised

Pasco telephone town hall meeting idea put on hold 03/11/11 [Last modified: Friday, March 11, 2011 9:18pm]

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