Bluewater council meetings could be streamed for public viewing
BLUEWATER – Future Bluewater council meetings could be streamed for public viewing and the new system would also be more efficient for municipal staff.
At the Oct. 1 committee of the whole meeting Bluewater council approved a second and third reading of bylaw 86 2018 which will authorize the municipality to enter in an agreement with iCompass Technologies Inc. if passed on Oct. 15. iCompass provides governments with minutes, agendas, video and record management via its cloudbased template for municipal staff. Explaining the process was Bluewater clerk Chandra Alexander at the committee of the whole meeting. She said the current process has staff create meeting agendas in Microsoft Word, a process that takes Alexander and her staff five to seven hours to complete for each council or committee of the whole meeting. She said the agreement with iCompass and its cloud-based program would be “more efficient for staff.”
She explained the agreement would see staff log into a web-based portal to complete reports in the system that will be designed to match Bluewater’s current Microsoft Word template. In addition council meetings would be streamed for public viewing. A camera will be installed in the council chambers that will provide live and recorded webcasts with automated closed captioning. The webcasted meetings will have timestamps and video links within the minutes. This video player will be included in future agendas. This ability will allow viewers to watch the meeting and see what is coming up in the meeting video. “Agendas can be compiled and posted in a couple of hours rather than up to seven hours for a single agenda,” said Alexander about the new system. The agreement would cost the municipality an annual subscription fee of $10,400 plus HST – which the municipality already budgeted for. For the period of Oct. 30 until Dec. 31 the municipality will pay $1,732 plus HST to use the iCompass system. There is also a one-time audio/video equipment budget of $7,000 that has been set aside by Bluewater.
Staff’s recommendation expects Bluewater to officially pass the motion and enter into an agreement with iCompass Technologies Inc. on Oct. 15. Staff will then begin using the cloud-based system and council meetings are expected to be streamed shortly after.
Alexander says if council passes the motion, staff will then begin training to use the new system. She also noted that it is unclear how quickly the video streaming service would be available for public viewing if council accepts staff’s recommendation. In-camera sessions are not open to the public currently and this will be consistent under the agreement. Upcoming in-camera sessions will be recorded but will not be made available to the public online. Concerns with the new system were raised by Bayfield Coun. Bill Whetstone. Whetstone said he understands that this is a step in the right direction but he thinks the municipality will have to be cautious with the cloud-based program. “Recently we saw this in Midland where files were stolen [from their system] They had to pay $45,000 to get them back,” said Whetstone, noting similar things have happened with Wasaga Beach and the City of Atlanta. “The more things we put out there on the cloud, the easier it is for other people [hackers] to get back into our other system,” said Whetstone. Hensall Ward Coun. Marnie Hill said she is in favour of the proposed agreement and says it will get more people interested in local politics. Bluewater Mayor Tyler Hessel reminded council that the municipality will design the policy.
“At the end of the day you will be within your own policy It gives us a bit, not a lot but a bit of protection,” said Hessel on protecting files from hackers.
As of last week Bluewater staff was still exploring options to purchase video equipment.