System to offer videos of board
Keeping tabs on town government just got easier as officials have launched a new webcasting system for Town Board meetings that integrates agendas with the corresponding video of meetings.
The system is the first of its kind to be used in the Capital Region, allowing those who view past meetings to click on any portion of the agenda of interest and be immediately cued to that portion of the video.
Meetings happening live will be streamed on the town's website, www.townofbethlehem.org, where past meetings can already be viewed and are already synchronized with agendas.
This year's state of the town address has also been posted.
"Having that record preserved in its entirety is like open meetings on steroids," Town Supervisor John Clarkson said.
The idea for the new system came from Management of Information Services Director Jeffrey Dammeyer, who said he spent two years researching and trying to find a vendor who had the technology to make his vision of integrating agendas and meetings a reality.
He was searching the Web, he said, when he found Long Island-based IQM2, a company dedicated to helping governments throughout the country with meeting management software.
The company charges the town $62 per meeting to host the video on its servers, but all the hardware for the new system was funded by Verizon under the town's franchise agreement with the company when it sought to implement FiOS in town.
Town officials have been preparing for the new system launch since January, when Town Clerk Nanci Moquin learned the ropes on the system and learned how to operate the video cameras. Moquin used to take minutes at meetings, but the new system now helps in generating those.
Previously, staff from the town's library recorded meetings for broadcast on public access television and needed three days to edit video and audio. The new system can make a copy of the video formatted for broadcast television at the same time that a Web-formatted version is stowed on the internet.
For now, only Town Board meetings are using the system, but officials have plans to add planning and zoning board meetings, too. Clarkson said it's just a matter of training staff to use the hardware.
There's also been talk of expanding the system to allow the public to comment on specific agenda items, allowing those who watch meetings at home to be part of discussions taking place at Town Hall.
At the last Town Board meeting, Clarkson said a feature of the system allows it to be set up similar to a newspaper blog.
"My preference would be, let people comment, but I think as we do in our actual meetings, people must give their real names," he said. "I'm very concerned about the type of commentary you sometimes see on blogs when people do not give their name. It's kind of like graffiti without accountability and for our municipal website, I wouldn't advocate that."
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IQM2 is a market leader in furnishing end-to-end public meeting and Open Government software solutions through their award-winning Open Meeting Management System applications including MinuteTraq (agenda process improvement), MediaTraq (Live/On-Demand Video Streaming) and E-Boardroom (electronic voting).
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