Last night the Rules Committee (Stewart, Lotko, Callahan, Brubaker) convened to discuss the referral for televising public meetings. Also present were Tanner, Krischer, myself and Bullocks, in addition to the Mayor, Mr. Ogle, Quentin Nolan, Esq. (from the law director's office) and a few residents.
Mr. Ogle presented three quotations he had obtained over the past day and a half from various vendors (copy attached in Documents section). These vendors include Yadon Video (who works with the Elyria Schools on their channel), AGV-TV Media (who works for the County Commissioners and LCCA) and Lake Breeze Video (who produces the Mayor's campaign commercials). Callahan reported that he had checked with Kathryn Karpus at the School Board and reported that she believed the Schools pay the videographer on a per-meeting basis. Brubaker asked the Mayor if the idea of including televised meetings would be included in the Mayor's 2015 telephone poll (no responsive answer provided).
AGV-TV does not seem to understand the current situation, as their price includes delivery of the master recording to the cable company. Lake Breeze is more expensive than Yadon, but it is unclear if they will deliver it in the format needed to upload to the cable channel. Yadon seems to best understand our needs and offers the lowest price. They would be my choice based on their experience with the necessary technology and the Schools, as discussed further below.
Elyria receives free air time on Time Warner Cable ("TWC") as part of the franchise agreement. This is on Channel 12, available 24 hours per day. Elyria currently uses this station to provide textual information, mainly regarding Parks and Recreation. Elyria also broadcasts the Mayor's Round Table periodically. This free resource has much additional potential that is unused.
We already have the technology to submit information for viewing on this channel. TWC had a one-time charge of $15,000 to provide the technology to the City and to the Schools, which was split evenly between the two and has already been paid. This technology allows us to take a video, in the correct format, and upload it to the cable channel, telling it what time to play. The Schools have obviously been taking advantage of this for some time, broadcasting School Board meetings, choir concerts and various events and other video information about our schools. They use Yadon to record, produce, edit and provide the schools with a final, finished product that is ready to plug into the TWC technology and transmit to their television station. Yadon uses his own equipment to do this and can film at any location. Any current or future costs to televise meetings would be in paying a videographer like one of the above three listed to film, produce and edit the meetings.
Currently, the Schools have a contract with Mr. Yadon for $40,000 per year that includes filming of various events listed in their contract. If you have ever seen the Schools channel, you can tell that they produce a great deal of footage. For our purposes, based on Yadon's quotation to the City of $250/meeeting, our annual cost could be as high as $15,000. This is based upon 21 Regular Council meetings, 21 Finance/Community Development meetings (they are normally back to back and could be included as one meeting), 12 Utilities/Safety/Environment meetings and 6 Rules meetings. Yadon would produce a final product that could be delivered to our existing IT coordinator, Cory Henderson, for transmission to TWC at the designated play times (Cory was not at the meeting to explain how this works). Another possibility is to train the Clerk of Council to transmit the meetings to TWC. This cost could be lower due to the fact that the initial quote per meeting was limited to 21 Regular Council Meetings. With more meetings, we could probably negotiate a better rate or even an annual contract cost like the Schools negotiated.
Mayor Grace noted that improved communications with residents is a goal that has come out of 2015 and that the City has various ideas to promote more communications, such as improving the City's web site, adding flyers and information with utilities bills and possibly televising public meetings. He noted that we may want to consider doing the video recording and production in-house with a city employee and reminded the Committee that he has already referred the matter of hiring new employees for the City, including an IT Coordinator and assistant(s). He mentioned that the cost of his communications initiative including print, videos, inserts in bills and such would approximate $100,000 per year.
Krischer raised some good points, noting that not everyone has access to cable television through TWC. He suggested the City investigate publishing video of the meetings on YouTube and that the meeting schedules and agendas could be posted on Channel 12 right now. We discussed that if we decided to put these meetings on the internet, we would want to have them available through the City's web site to increase traffic there. There would be no costs to post the committee schedules and agendas to the TWC cable channel at this time and Cory Henderson could possibly train the Clerk of Council's office to do this as part of their regular duties.
Tanner and Lotko voiced strong opposition to televising meetings, stating that any costs associated with televised meetings would be better spent improving streets or used in other areas of the City. There are indeed many infrastructure needs around the City. Of course, neither of these Council members supported the idea of providing additional monies for street improvements at Monday's Finance Committee meeting this week, but their point is well-taken that if we find additional monies to allocate for communications, we should instead direct those monies to repair our streets, many of which are in terrible condition (ranked as "1" by the Engineering Department), yet not scheduled for repair in 2008. Bullocks had no comments at the meeting, although asked by the Chair.
One thing that was not mentioned, but should have been, is that the City should publish a schedule on its web site as to when televised meetings will appear on the cable channel. This schedule should also include the Mayor's Round Table broadcasts. Perhaps the City could also include this information on the cable channel at set times, such as the 55-minute mark every hour. This would also help facilitate viewers watching the broadcasts and would let them know what is available and when it will be played.
The Committee decided to continue discussions on June 5, 2008, commencing at 6:00 p.m. Of course, committee meetings are subject to change with notice provided through the Clerk of Council's office, as published in the Committee Calls at regular Council meetings and at other times when they are modified for one reason or another. Hopefully this type of information will soon be available both on the Council web site and on the local access television channel!