NEW PORT RICHEY — Be kind so city residents don’t have to rewind, technology staff urged New Port Richey City Council members.
They expressed reluctance to spend for software to put live streaming of council meetings on the municipal website and allow direct searches of video archives after meetings but in the end voted 5-0 to endorse the plan.
While the city broadcasts council meetings on cable TV systems, a viewer would have to record the event and then search the recording much like an old VHS videotape, council members learned.
Councilman Chopper Davis attested to how vexing it can be to find discussion of one item on an agenda that might have a dozen or more items. He and city staff recently spent the better part of a morning rewinding and fast forwarding through the video recording of a past council meeting before locating the specific passage that interested Davis.
Software would allow a resident to watch live streaming of council meetings, according to Bryan Weed, the city’s technologies solutions director.
After the meeting, a resident could go directly to a specific segment in the video regarding an agenda item. SIRE Technologies provides the searchable database, much like what Pasco County is now using, Weed elaborated. Clicking on an agenda link could call up the exact spot of discussion in the video.
The initial cost for installation amounts to $35,606, with SIRE servers hosting the city’s searchable, online video, Weed reported. The city would have to spend $15,240 a year for maintenance and archiving.
While the city budget contains funds for the upgrades, the $50,846 total this year bothered some council members.
“I’m not sure this is the wisest use” of the city’s technology dollars, Councilman Jeff Starkey commented. The expense could pay the salary of an additional worker.
Councilwoman Judy DeBella Thomas said she had qualms about the expenditure, too.
City Clerk Doreen Summers said the streaming software would mean a “lot less work” to prepare agendas as well.
Starkey, however, still thought it was a big expense when city officials aren’t sure how many people watch the broadcasts of meetings now. He wondered how many viewers would utilize the new live streaming system.
Council members earlier had wanted better iPad access, Interim City Manager Susan Dillinger pointed out. The new system would be more compatible with tablet computers.
The annual maintenance fee of $15,240 could reduce the workload of the city technology staff, Dillinger observed.
Councilman Bill Phillips asked if the new system would help fulfill any public records requests the city receives. Yes, Weed replied, residents would gain the capability to conduct searches themselves.