At its last meeting of 2022, the Johnstown Town Board voted to create its first official Facebook page.
Deputy Supervisor Christina VanValkenburgh proposed its creation as a means of communicating town government information to residents.
“If we could have something for our town, we could list events; we can list town meetings, things like that on it,” VanValkenburgh said. “I think that would be good, and then we can [link] our website.”
Town Board member Paul Catucci said he’d like to help with the process.
“I don’t mind setting them up,” VanValkenburgh said “I know how to set them up, but I think somebody in [town hall] should actually have the access to do all of the information.”
The deputy supervisor introduced the motion to create the page.
During discussion, board member Tim Rizzo offered a word of caution about getting such a page started.
“I think we just, at first, make it simple,” Rizzo said.
“That’s all it is,” VanValkenburgh said of her proposal. “It’s just going to be a simple informational [page].”
In Fulton County, the cities of Johnstown and Gloversville both have official city Facebook pages that the city governments use to livestream their meetings, and create a catalog of videos that can be rewatched. Both cities also use their pages to promote events and inform residents about policies. Approximately 3,400 Facebook profiles follow Gloversville’s page, while 2,100 follow the city of Johnstown’s page on the social media platform.
None of the Johnstown Town Board members indicated a preference in terms of livestreaming their public meetings via the page.
Rizzo suggested it would be a good idea to limit the page’s ability to send to or receive direct messages from other Facebook profiles.
“You start getting people writing stuff to you …,” Rizzo said, questioning who would respond and how.
“No, I suggest locking it up on that, from getting messages,” Catucci said.
“It would just be an informational page on Facebook that tells you what’s going on,” Rizzo said, stating his preference.
Town Supervisor Jack Wilson wondered how the page would deal with other Facebook users wanting to comment on town government posts.
“There’ll probably be tons and tons of comments,” Wilson said.
Different municipal Facebook pages in Fulton County have addressed the issue of comments in different ways. Both cities typically allow Facebook comments on most of their livestream videos and posts, and sometimes city officials administering the Facebook page respond to those comments with information, either answering questions or seeking to clarify misunderstandings or incorrect information posted by commenters.
The Fulton County Board of Supervisors Facebook page, which has 1,000 followers, allows other users to “like” posts and “share” those posts to their personal pages, but does not allow comments.
The Fulton County Sheriff’s Office page — with 17,000 followers — allows Facebook likes, comments and shares.
VanValkenburgh, Rizzo and and Catucci all indicated Facebook comments ought to be blocked on the town’s page.
The Town Board then voted unanimously to create the town’s first official Facebook page.
When the Town of Johnstown’s official Facebook page is created, it won’t be alone in using the Town of Johnstown, New York name and geographic location. Several Facebook pages that might give the impression to some users of an official affiliation with the town of Johnstown government already exist.
On such page called “Johnstown Town Hall” was created on Nov. 6, 2012 and features a profile picture of Supervisor Jack Wilson standing up behind the raised dais, where Town Board members sit during meetings. The page has six likes and appears to be inactive.
Another page named “Town of Johnstown” created on Oct. 20, 2010, and designated a local business, appears to be inactive, although it has 71 likes on it.
There are also some Facebook group pages, both private — requiring a user to be admitted by the group administrator, and public.
A private group called “Town of Johnstown Views” — created in 2014, has 40 members, and is administered by a Facebook profile with the name Kelly Bradt.
A public group titled “Town of Johnstown NY/Fulton County NY Rural Roots,” which has a profile picture of a rural cemetery was created on June 30 and currently has 48 members.
Some town officials currently have, or have in the past had, “Public & Government Service” Facebook pages, such as Planning Board member Amy Ward.