By Trevor Busch
Starting in 2019, local citizens will be able to livestream town council meetings following the approval of a camera system installed in council’s newly-renovated chambers.
Part of council’s Strategic Plan is to to develop a strategy to open council meetings to the public, with one option being livestreaming. Costs for the installation are associated with the recent renovation budget for town council chambers.
Following closed session discussion on June 25, council had voted unanimously to undertake renovations to the council chambers with a $200,000 upset limit, utilizing funds from the 2018 capital budget to complete the work.
“With the renovations currently being done to the council chamber, administration was seeking council’s direction on whether we should install a camera at this point in order to be able to livestream those meetings,” said CAO Cory Armfelt at council’s Aug. 20 regular meeting.
Livestreaming refers to online streaming media simultaneously recorded and broadcast in real time to the viewer.
“I think we need to proceed forward with this, this has kind of been our problem all along,” said Coun. Joe Strojwas. “It’s time to do it while the construction is being done.”
Coun. Louie Tams was concerned about the potential cost of the installation.
“It would be ordered all together with all of the audio-visual equipment we’re ordering,” continued Armfelt. “It’s not a huge amount of money at this point to order a camera as well.”
“It does work within the renovation budget, so it’s no added cost,” said public works director Gary Scherer.
Coun. Jack Brewin was less enthusiastic about the idea, suggesting the archived video material could be used to malign or denigrate town council.
“I haven’t been in favour of livestreaming since we first brought it up. I’ve seen some of the things that can happen with clips of video since it’s been livestreamed. I am not in favour of livestreaming.”
While in tentative agreement with Brewin, Tams suggested the idea was in close alignment with the professed goals of town council and the Town of Taber.
“As much as I tend to agree with Councillor Brewin, but yet in our commitment we were going to become more open, and I am in favour of livestreaming. Let’s do it. We have nothing to hide. Put it out there so the public can see what’s going on.”
Town staff will manage recordings or livestreaming. Justification for the service is to “provide better communications to the public.”
“I agree with Councillor Strojwas, I think it’s time, especially with us moving our meetings to 3:30 in the afternoon,” said Coun. Carly Firth. “I think that limits the possibility to attend the meetings, and I know one of my fellow councillors mentioned that there wasn’t a great desire to attend meetings all the time, but I think we have a responsibility to be as accessible as we can, and this helps with that.”
Following discussion, council voted 6-1 in favour of purchasing and installing the necessary cameras and equipment needed to livestream and record meetings, with the livestreaming to come online for the first meeting in 2019. Coun. Jack Brewin opposed the motion.