December 25, 2012

Oakland Town Council meeting to be recorded, posted to YouTube

Web videos a move to respond to public petition for more access

By Matt Hongoltz-Hetling
Staff Writer

OAKLAND -- Wednesdays Town Council meeting will be accessible to the public in a new way as the town tinkers with posting video of its meetings on the Internet.

The council has been working toward broadcasting its meetings since July, when 362 residents petitioned the town to make its meetings more accessible.

Tonight, Bradley Bickford, a student from Messalonskee High School, will record the meeting with camera and audio equipment on loan from the school and it will be posted on the town's website via YouTube, the video-hosting website.

Town Manager Peter Nielsen said it "all sounded very technological to me, but apparently it sounded very simple to the fellow who's going to help us."

He added, "I'm delighted with this turn of events."

The broadcast will be a trial run. Town leaders will assess the audio and video quality of the recording, which will be made with a single stationary camera. The town can buy a similar camera for several hundred dollars, Nielsen said.

"If we have a successful experiment, we're in a much better position to ask for a camera," he said, "If not, we won't have used any taxpayer dollars unnecessarily."

If the town does begin offering its meetings on the Internet, it will join a small but growing group of municipalities around the state, according to Eric Conrad, spokesman for the Maine Municipal Association.

Conrad estimates that dozens of the state's 492 municipalities post their meetings online, a practice that the association encourages.

Conrad said that one advantage of posting videos online is that they can be reviewed long after they are posted, at the convenience of the viewer.

This not only increases public access, but it makes it easier for town offices to field certain types of information requests, he said.

Another option that the town has explored is broadcasting meetings on local access television.

Some people don't have Internet access, while others don't have local cable television.

Nielsen said that, according to conversations he's had with Time Warner Cable, a television broadcast would be more expensive, with startup equipment alone costing about $10,000.

The meeting starts at 6 p.m. in the Town Office. Nielsen said he wasn't sure when it would be posted online, but that a link should be available at soon.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling -- 861-9287

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