The Nelson County Board of Supervisors recently discussed the possible implementation of a Facebook page for the county, but some weren’t quite ready to hop on the social media train just yet.

West District Supervisor David Parr, who volunteered to take on the project when it was first brought up during a previous board meeting in March, said during a May 12 meeting the page would serve as another avenue for the county to disseminate information to people in Nelson County.

“In today’s society, the public expects that form of communication from us,” Parr said.

Grace Mawyer, deputy clerk to the board of supervisors, was the one who took much of the responsibility for establishing the procedures presented to supervisors during the May 12 meeting.

Since then, county staff has worked alongside legal counsel to develop a protocol for the social media page should supervisors vote to approve the project.

Mawyer said she worked with County Attorney Phillip Payne and had looked to other local jurisdictions that have already implemented social media procedures in their counties as a model.

“We think it’s probably good to go, but we didn’t want to rush to victory without the board’s review,” County Administrator Steve Carter said.

Parr said the page would be run by the county staff, not by the board of supervisors or any individual supervisor.

He said the page would not be a place for back-and-forth communication between visitors and the county, but rather would be a tool to help disseminate information. Follow-up information would be available through the appropriate channels should people have questions.

While some supervisors were in favor of implementing a Facebook page for the county, others were hesitant of possible consequences the page might have.

Instead of the Facebook page, Central District Supervisor Ernie Reed said he supported revamping the county’s website as well as an effective alert system. He acknowledged that while a Facebook page could fulfill that role, it doesn’t come without potential risks.

South District Supervisor Robert Barton said he is wary of the possibility of misinformation as well.

“The assumption that this is a good idea to start with is something that I find a little problematic, only because abuse of Facebook platforms is something that goes on all the time and no matter what you put in place, the ability for it to be abused is very real,” Reed said.

Reed said a Facebook page isn’t the way to go in order to improve communication.

“To give the impression that Facebook is something that’s being done to improve communications, I don’t buy it. You improve communications by having public hearings … meeting people one-on-one,” he said.

Parr said the page would require some regulation and oversight, but it would be a manageable project for the county to undertake.

Tommy Harvey, North District supervisor and board chairman, said the page would not be an appropriate channel for Freedom of Information Act requests, a concern brought up by Reed.

East District Supervisor Jesse Rutherford said it was important that Nelson County join other local entities and surrounding localities in having a county-operated Facebook page.

“All I’m saying is at this point the rest of the state’s got it figured out, it can’t be rocket science,” East District Supervisor Jesse Rutherford, said. “A lot of other counties are doing it, our school systems are doing it, our sheriff does it … all the local governments around us are doing it, it’s important and we need to do it.”

The implementation of the Facebook page would require official approval from the board of supervisors at a later meeting. Harvey said the Facebook page is an idea the county could try and if it doesn’t work then the board can pursue other options.

Nick Cropper covers Nelson County. Reach him at (434) 385-5522.

Nick Cropper covers Nelson County. Reach him at (434) 385-5522.

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