County to discuss how to discuss road projects

York County Manager Jim Baker says limiting public access was not his intention when he suggested moving "Pennies for Progress" road presentations after County Council meetings and not televising them.

The County Council's discussion on moving the informal presentations on the pros and cons of particular road improvement projects won't happen until the next meeting -- despite Councilman Curwood Chappell's broaching of the subject at last week's meeting.

Baker's suggestion to move these informative sessions to after council meetings sprung from controversy over the intersection of Porter and Firetower roads. That discussion spanned three years and resulted in a seemingly obsolete design for the Y-shaped intersection.

Baker also suggested not televising presentations to the council by the firm that manages Pennies for Progress, Capital Management and Engineering. This initial recommendation was to avoid panic from affected residents at a time when their questions can't be answered. This proposal never has been agreed upon or implemented.

But this possible change irked some council members and residents, prompting Baker to send two e-mails to media explaining his plan and providing alternatives to still televise the presentations.

"I was trying to bring the media and council up to speed," he said. "There seemed to be a misunderstanding on what we were trying to accomplish."

Baker's modified plans still wouldn't air the presentations until after a public hearing on the road changes is held. But the presentations could be improved by changing camera angles to better show the area of the maps the presenter is talking about, and by putting the presentations on the county and Pennies for Progress Web sites, Baker said.

Not long after Chappell brought up the issue at Monday's meeting, Chairman Buddy Motz told the council it'll be on the agenda for Dec. 3 and that ended the discussion.

"As a council, we'll discuss whether to continue on as in past or look at putting it after the meeting," Motz said Tuesday. "We want to make sure we're doing it in the best way and in the best light. We don't want the perception that we're leaving anyone out. We want good open policies the public feels good about."

Councilman Rick Lee said he doesn't like the image that something is being hidden from the pubic.

"This whole thing has nothing to do with the normal process," Lee said recently. "We were handling a number of projects smoothly before and after this one."

Baker said last week he wasn't sure if there will be more than discussion on the issue at the Dec. 3 meeting.

"We'll see what happens," he said. "I'm trying to convince the council they don't have to vote on everything."