Cobb County is now charging at least $250 an hour for outside groups and organizations to hold and broadcast events in the Cobb Board of Commissioners’ meeting room outside of normal operating hours.
The new fees are among changes to the Cobb TV Government Access Channel Policy that were unanimously approved by commissioners at their regular meeting on Aug. 27.
Cobb communications director Ross Cavitt said the policy had not been updated in decades, and the county’s building at 100 Cherokee Street in Marietta Square gained a security status earlier this year that requires three staff to man the checkpoint into the board’s meeting room.
That means anyone using the room outside the county’s normal operating hours must now pay $150 an hour for the three security staff required, for the duration of the event as well as for the hour before it starts and the hour after it ends.
In addition, those using the meeting room for non-county events will now also be charged $100 an hour to have their meeting, forum or debate broadcast by Cobb TV.
“Occasionally we have non-county groups or organizations that ask to use this room, which we usually grant, but many of these are after normal business hours,” Cavitt told commissioners in presenting the policy changes last week. “If any of those groups need to use Cobb TV resources, including personnel or equipment, they will need to reimburse the cost of some of those resources.”
The new policy states anyone wanting to use the board’s meeting room must book it through the county at least two weeks prior to the event, although official county use of the room always takes priority.
Any digital material to be shown or broadcast through Cobb TV’s system for non-county meetings and debates must also now be submitted to the county’s communications division in advance of the event, so the material can be scanned and security screened.
“That’s just in case anyone intentionally or unintentionally gave us a bad agent into our computer system here,” Cavitt said.
The fourth major change in the policy centers around elected officials using Cobb TV during an election year.
The former ban on elected officials utilizing Cobb TV during this time has now been reduced from the start of the election year in January to the end of the qualifying period set by the Cobb County Board of Elections and Registration, which is typically around August.
“Where an elected official’s office will appear on the November ballot, elected officials may not utilize Cobb TV except to appear on regularly televised public meetings or in political candidate debates or forums in which they qualify to appear,” the new policy states.
Elected officials from the county’s six municipal governments are no longer permitted Cobb TV access for an hour each month, as they were under the old policy.
Similarly, members of Cobb’s legislative delegation are no longer granted an hour of access per week while in session on a rotating basis, and federal government representatives can no longer use Cobb TV for two hour-long time slots per year.
Each Cobb board member is still allotted an hour a month in addition to regularly televised public meetings, as is every other Cobb elected official, including the sheriff, district attorney, solicitor, tax commissioner, judges and state and superior court clerks.
The only commissioner to discuss the policy changes at the Aug. 27 meeting was JoAnn Birrell, who sought confirmation from Cavitt that the building’s security costs won’t be charged to outsiders using the meeting room during normal business hours when the county pays security staff to be there anyway.
Cavitt said if outsiders’ meetings in the board’s room during normal business hours were broadcast by Cobb TV, then only the $100 hourly fee for personnel and equipment would apply.