Brock Township council and committee meetings will soon be streamed online.
Members of council voted last month to revive a one-year trial to offer video coverage of meetings initially launched – and scrapped – during the last term of council. But instead of recording and uploading the footage to YouTube, it will instead be streamed on the Township’s website almost instantly.
“After a 30- to 60-second delay, it will immediately populate onto our website,” said Deputy Clerk Becky Jamieson.
The project, which could be in place as early as Monday (Jan. 21), is expected to cost $14,000 – a price tag that seemed to shock some of the members of council.
“I’m a big supporter of recording meetings but the pricing is a little surprising to say the least,” said Ward 1 representative Mike Jubb.
While there was some talk of waiting until the 2019 budget deliberations, members of council decided to proceed by utilizing a surplus of funds under the clerks department line.
“We have the money to move on this now,” said Mayor Debbie Bath-Hadden.
A similar project was initiated by the Township over the summer but was scrapped after just three meetings after technical issues began to monopolize too much staff time.
“There were quite a few challenges with the system we had before,” said Regional Councillor Ted Smith, the only holdover from the last term.
Jamieson’s report notes some of those difficulties.
“The system was installed and the Aug. 13, 2018 council meeting was the first meeting to be video recorded. The Sept. 10 and 17 council and committee meetings were also recorded. Downloading the meetings and converting them to MP3 files took significant staff time and there were issues with the alignment of the audio and video,” the report reads.
“Staff were unable to properly download the Sept. 17 meetings and upload them to the website. Staff made the recommendation to have the system removed in early October and received a full refund from the vendor.”
She also noted that the previous system did not meet the requirements of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, primarily due to a lack of captioning.
“That’s one of the biggest challenges,” Jamieson told members of council.
The Aug. 10 meeting, which was uploaded in four parts, garnered just shy of 1,000 views, while the two committee sessions on Sept. 10 drew less than three dozen.
“It is important to note that the Aug. 13 council meeting contained a very controversial topic (the Kaitlin development in Sunderland) which increased the public’s interest in this meeting,” the report reads.
It also notes that Brock Township is a bit behind the curve as far as video recording is concerned.
“Many municipalities across the Province have implemented online video streaming of council and/or committee meetings over the past six years. In fact, the Township and the Municipality of Clarington are the only two municipalities within the Region of Durham who are not currently implementing such initiatives,” the report reads.
It also outlined some of the pros and cons of taping meetings for members of council.
“Video recording and/or live steaming of council and committee meetings would enhance the municipality’s transparency and accessibility by offering residents greater access to the proceedings of their local government. However, in considering the implementation of this service, there are a number of issues that must be considered including internet access, website statistics, initial capital costs, technical issues, ongoing operating costs, resources, and decorum of meetings,” the report reads.
Should the pilot be scrapped, staff will try to recoup some of the costs by selling the equipment.
“Following one year, staff could prepare a report on the results of the pilot project for consideration to continue the initiative in subsequent years. Should council wish not to proceed with the initiative following one year, staff could attempt to sell the nonrefundable video and technical equipment,” the report reads.