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Published: Friday, 10/26/2012

Sylvania City Council mulls broadcasting meetings online

BY KELLY McLENDON
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Sylvania City Council is considering broadcasting its meetings through online streaming video, but the issue was placed on the back burner for financial reasons.

Council’s employee and community relations committee met Thursday to discuss putting the meetings online.

Currently, council and committee meeting records are on the city’s Web site, which includes audio features for every meeting.

Mike Tansey, Sylvania’s information technology manager, said there are many ways to set up a video system but there are a few caveats to online streaming.

“As you get into video, what you run into...how’s it going to look to the people watching it?”

Mr. Tansey said some cities installed a camera in the far back of the meeting room and “that was boring... you can’t tell who is talking.”

He used the live video feed of city council meetings in Elgin, Ill., as an example and said such a system would cost about $33,000.

But committee member Mike Brown hedged on the idea because of the cost.

“We are dealing with a very tight budget,” he said.

“I’m not opposed to this, but I don't think it’s the right time. I don’t think we have the financial ability to put in an appropriate system.”

“I’d like to know how many people even come in and look at the audio. Sometimes the meetings are pretty boring. I just can’t see it right now.”

Mayor Craig Stough said total city revenues will be down an estimated $650,000 from last year.

Despite his reservations, Mr. Brown said it was important that council is transparent.

“My philosophy is, yeah, let’s have an open meeting,” he said.

“If we could do this for 500 bucks, I’d say go for it.”

Committee chairman Mark Luetke agreed that accessibility is important.

“I think transparency is always good. The more you can demonstrate, the better,” he said, adding that making the audio feed on the site live, instead of uploading it hours later, might be a middle-of-the-road option.

Mr. Luetke and Mr. Brown urged Mr. Tansey to find out how much traffic the current audio recordings get.

Also Thursday, the committee decided to bring a policy recommendation to council next week in which members would review levy information ahead of time before endorsing them.

Committee member Katie Capellini said that having the information weeks ahead of time would assist with the decision-making process.

“It’s hard to listen to them and read through their stack of paper at the same time,” she said, about hearing the requests.

“I also think it’s appropriate for us to support agencies or entities that affect the quality of life in Sylvania,” Ms. Capellini said.

The committee will bring the recommendation before city council at its next meeting, scheduled for Monday.

Contact Kelly McLendon at kmclendon@theblade.com or 419-206-0356, or on Twitter at @MyTownSylvania.



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