By Cole Parkinson
While live-streaming has been a big part of Municipal District of Taber council meetings during the worldwide pandemic, moving forward it will continue to be a mainstay in council chambers.
During council’s June 9 meeting, the topic of implementing live-streaming for council meetings past the pandemic was once again brought forward to council.
“This was discussed at the last council meeting briefly, in which council gave us direction to bring back more information. This RFD serves as that additional information,” added CAO Arlos Crofts.
While council had been utilizing technology to conduct council meetings for the past several months, the idea to continue live-streaming their meetings is another way to allow the public to maintain access to council decisions. Before implementing this feature permanently for council meetings, council had requested administration set up a demonstration of the All-Net live-streaming service.
“I know we’ve talked about this for a long time and have never really came to a decision one way or another if we want to do this. We had a Zoom meeting (on June 8) with a demonstration of it,” explained Reeve Merrill Harris.
Administration further explained the results of the demonstration of the program.
“As a trial, we received a demo package that we have recently completed a number of tests and simulations in our network environment. The results of our test were positive in that the system was stable on the network, easy to use, and low maintenance. As a summary of research, we confirmed pricing and created a simulation video for council viewing. As a simulation we hope it provides a better idea of what can be expected from YouTube Integrations, All-Net Meetings Integrations and the video stream itself,” reads administration’s report.
Another discussion council wanted to bring forward was around costs associated with the programs.
“One thing we haven’t talked about is the cost implications. And what is the cost of this? I believe it was budgeted for,” inquired Coun. Brian Brewin.
Costs for all needed equipment and programming came from an All-Net one-time initial cost for a video encoder, system upgrade, and set-up was $3,245.
Additionally, a camera purchase, cabling installation and audio/video (one-time) is $2,200.00 while the annual All-Net maintenance of the live-streaming module totals $1,995.
“There are some budget funds. We could fund it easily out of our operating budget,” said CAO Arlos Crofts. “It’s in addition (to what the M.D. is already paying to All-Net). I believe it is a $1,000 discount.”
With council’s meetings being live-streamed and posted on YouTube at the moment, council asked how many views they were getting.
“They aren’t large numbers and it would be dependent on the topics of course. Some individuals are interested in certain topics, there will be larger numbers for certain meetings. But our current views, they are low so it is viewed as an additional means of accessing our meetings and accessing information,” answered Bryce Surina, director of GIS and IT.
“Yes your viewership may not be extremely high but that being said, if it is something council proceeds forward with it is making things accessible. That is a key point of having transparent governance. Making sure that information is accessible,” stated Crofts.
Implementation of a new program comes with some adoption for staff, and council questioned if more staff time would need to be allocated for the All-Net systems.
Administration explained the new system would be easier for staff compared to what they had quickly set-up in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The actual running of the meeting is much more efficient than it is right now of manually streaming through YouTube. We will gain some efficiencies within the actual streaming of the meetings. As far as tagging goes, there will be an additional contribution from admin for tagging the resolutions but that is an optional service. It does look like it is very minimal in the sense that you tag resolutions or set standards for key areas within the minutes so an individual can quickly go through our minutes,” added Surina.
As far as additional staff time dedicated to the All-Net systems, it was further explained by administration they did not expect it to add much more labour.
“I don’t anticipate it being a ton of extra work. I don’t want to speak for Candice (Robison, administrative clerk). I think after a few cycles, it will be a natural part of the process,” said Crofts.
“I don’t anticipate it being difficult either. Obviously, I haven’t done it so I don’t know until I actually try. From what I have seen, it doesn’t look difficult,” added Robison.
A motion that council approves the implementation of the All-Net Live Streaming Module for all public meetings and further, that the initiative be funded through the 2020 operating budget, was carried unanimously.