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County Unveils 'Transparency Plan' to Improve Access

The five-point plan includes road meetings and the launching of a new Facebook page, Freeholder Director Joe Donnelly announced Tuesday.

Burlington County unveiled a five-point government “transparency plan” Tuesday, designed to provide residents with easier access to meetings, budgets and other documents, and allow more time to review upcoming agendas.
  
As part of the plan, the county will launch a new Facebook page this week to provide residents with real-time updates on programs and services posted on the county’s official website, and which will allow visitors to the page to offer constructive feedback.

“Hopefully, this entrée into social media will give more residents a front row seat to county business, and an opportunity to ask questions and learn more about programs and services,” said Freeholder Director Joe Donnelly.

Donnelly added that the board of freeholders would be “taking (its) show on the road” this year, with plans to hold three or four public meetings at different locations throughout the county.

He said the county’s cumbersome meeting schedule would be condensed, more information on county departments and services would be highlighted during meetings, and a new webpage would be created to bring key documents under one heading to facilitate access.

He detailed the five elements of his reform plan as follows:

Meeting Locations: Donnelly said staff has already been instructed to seek locations outside the county seat, reach out to municipal officials, assemble a schedule of meetings, and promote road meetings to ensure area residents know the dates and times.

Condensed Meeting Schedule: All freeholder meetings—conferences and public meetings alike—will be held on the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month. Currently, conferences are held every Wednesday.

“The intent is simple,” said Donnelly. “This will give staff more time to assemble agendas. More important, it will ensure that freeholders have the time they need in advance of public meetings to review items and ask questions.”

Monthly Reports: At the second public meeting each month, a county department head will provide a report on programs and activities in his or her department, where necessary, briefly explain the department’s function, and entertain questions from the public.

“This is another key step toward familiarizing taxpayers and residents on the responsibilities of county government,” Donnelly said. “Everyone knows we collect recyclables and plow snow, but there is a much larger menu of services that need to be better understood.”

Transparency Webpage: Key documents—including everything from budgets and financial statements, to agendas, lists of municipal recreation grants, minutes and election results—will be easily accessible by going to a newly-created Transparency Webpage, to be launched this week. The quick link can be found on the county’s homepage (www.co.burlington.nj.us).

“Putting all these documents in one location just makes it easier for everyone,” said Donnelly. “Best of all, this page will be a work-in-progress, as the list of documents is expanded over time.”

Facebook: The county’s new Facebook page will also be launched this week, as part of an effort to connect residents with county government and make it more user-friendly.

“Last year we discovered how Facebook could assist us in our battle against the higher utility rates sought by New Jersey American Water,” said Donnelly. “In addition, we discovered that our program to collect clothing and food for Sandy victims took on a life of its own when others publicized it on Facebook.”

Provided by the Burlington County Office of Public Information

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