Blue­wa­ter coun­cil meet­ings could be streamed for pub­lic view­ing

The Goderich Signal-Star - - News -

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.

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