As a longtime audience member at Cherokee County Commissioners Court meetings, Josie Schoolcraft has been imploring officials to speak up during on-the-record discussions and formal votes for quite some time.
Schoolcraft said it is difficult to follow the actions of officials when they are speaking too softly to be heard. She contends the voice levels are so low even tape recordings of each meeting can't catch a lot of what is being said.
Cherokee County Judge Chris Davis said Monday he is working to address this problem. He said the lack of volume is a combination of county officials not projecting their voices enough and of people fidgeting with the volume controls outside of Commissioners Court meetings.
Schoolcraft voiced her concerns to the public in a Jacksonville Daily Progress letter a couple of years ago, under the headline, “Government should be able to be heard.”
Schoolcraft wrote a very similar letter and emailed it to Cherokee County Commissioners and the Jacksonville Daily Progress on Aug. 12 — two years of barely heard meetings later.
In 2011, Schoolcraft wrote that “unfortunate tone deafness in Cherokee County’s government lies in their lack of follow-through with improving the sound system and recording capabilities desperately needed during Commissioner’s Court meetings.
“Or,” the audience member added, “is it just that you do not want us to know what is being said?”
Judge Davis, who contacted Schoolcraft right away after receiving her complaint, said he believes the problem is well on its way to being fixed.
“What happens is the microphones in our courtroom are the same ones the federal courthouse uses,” he said. “They are good ones, but sometimes when these other people use our courtroom , they mess with the knobs and stuff. We are in the process of getting it fixed up.”
Judge Davis has said he is well aware some county officials aren't speaking as loudly as they should.
“Some people don't really want to be heard and won't speak up in a loud enough voice for people to hear them,” the judge said. “Let me tell you: If I can't hear them they really aren't speaking loud enough. But we are working to fix things. I contacted Josie back and told her how the people use the courtroom, When you go in there on a Monday and try to get the meeting started, it's really hard to postpone things to get the sound levels fixed.”
Schoolcraft said not every person is provided with a microphone during commission meetings.
“There also need to be speakers in the back of the courtroom to augment the sound,” she said. “Don’t waste your $10 to order a tape of the proceedings. The recordings are garbled.”
Since the county is rounding the corner toward the budget, maybe a new sound system could be included in it, Schoolcraft suggested.
“The one the court uses now is terrible,” she said.
Schoolcraft estimated a new system probably wouldn't cost that much.
“I would even be willing to make a donation to the county to pay for one,” she said.