Mark Taylor
The Gardner City Council reviewed options for videotaping and streaming council meetings online during its Oct. 10 work session.
After discussing several options including micrphone upgrades and camera placement, the council directed Larry Heilman, of Smith Audio, to return to the council with price quotes on Nov. 7.
Melissa Mundt, interim city administrator, said Heilman’s company designed the audio visual system currently installed in the council chambers.
The topic of broadcast or video taped meetings has arisen at council meetings for several years.
Citizens have requested the service for the convenience of watching council meetings from home or having access to video at a later date.
Other government agencies, such as the Johnson County Board of Commissioners stream their meetings live and store videos of each meeting in an online archive.
Council members reviewed several price options ranging from $4,200 to $19,000 based on the number of cameras and microphone upgrades required.
In-house option 1 ($19,000) included thre pan/tilt/zoom cameras with a camera controller, audio/video mixer, microphone upgrades, control table and other equipment required for internet broadcasts.
In-house option 2 ($4,700) included a single preowned pan/tild/zoom camera with a static wall mount. The camera would be capable video and audio streaming. Option 2 also included multiple options for providing access to the videos following the meetings, including YouTube, and the city’s website. Staff would have to study how this would pertain to the Kansas Open Records Act.
In-house opton 3 ($4,200) included digital audio recording and microphone upgrades. The recordings could be added to the city’s website within a day of meetings and could also be used by the city clerk for preparing minutes for the planning commissions and board of zoning appeals.
Council members were told that staff currently uses an audio recording device for meetings that does not clearly pick up all voices.
Staff also proposed “out of house” options that would partner with an outside service provider to host the video on the city’s website or through a remote website.
That would require the city to issue an RFP for a “defined set of services, such as streaming only city council meetings or all city boards and committtee meetings to be coverd by the outsourced provider,” according to a memo to the council.
Staff recommended partnering with outside vendors because, “1) there is minimal additional workload on city staff and 2) the meeting videos would not be the city’s records to manage under the requirements of the Kansas Open Records Act and thus avoid creating additional burden to our other records retention requirements.
Councilwoman Kristy Harrison said she believed the second in-house option would be most cost effective and would allow records to be kept in-house.
Councilman Chris Morrow agreed.
Mundt cautioned the council to avoid putting additional work (operating cameras during meetings, etc.) on an already busy staff.
“We are working nights, we are working weekends,” she said.
She also said intervacing with the city’s website may result in additional costs.
Mayor Dave Drovetta echoed Mundt’s concerns.
“This is adding tsomething to staff time regardless,” he said. “We’re asking them to do more than they are already doing today.”
Councilman Dennis Pugh suggested outsourcing the project to a  news organization like The Gardner News to stream on its website.
The council set a January target date for implimenting streaming or recorded council meetings but added, “a January target may not mean a January implementation.”
The council will revisit the issue in November.