Dan Hust | Democrat
MEMBERS OF THE Sullivan County Legislature’s Government Services Committee watched a live webcast at last Thursday’s meeting. The legislature will look into several options for broadcasting its meetings.
County ready to webcast meetings
By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO Ready for a live Legislature?
Amidst a few jokes about being careful what they say, on Thursday, the Government Services Committee took the first step towards webcasting county legislative meetings.
Joe Loughlin of Total Webcasting in New Paltz presented legislators with their options to transmit audiovisual images of the committee and full Legislature meetings over the Internet.
“Anyone can watch from their computer at home,” he explained, “or wherever they want to be. It’s open to the world.”
In operation since 2001, Loughlin said business took off last year when former Governor Eliot Spitzer mandated that state agencies had to offer webcasts of important meetings.
Total Webcasting now contracts with eight agencies, including the state departments of Health and Insurance. While local governments are not required to webcast meetings, Loughlin said his company also provides that service for the Village of Ellenville, the Town of Wallkill and Dutchess County.
Sullivan County basically has two options, should legislators decide to go with Total Webcasting (for which funding would have to be found).
One option would be to use the company’s equipment and personnel to webcast meetings as they happen. The cost would be $500 per meeting for up to three hours.
The other option would be to purchase the needed equipment and install up to four remotely operated cameras in the two legislative meeting rooms. That cost would approach $6,000, said Loughlin, but would be one-time.
With either option, there would be an ongoing cost of $110 per meeting to encode the audio and video signals, store (for up to three months) the images and related documents for later public retrieval and provide the necessary bandwidth.
The actual webcasts themselves would be free to view, and users of the service would need only have high-speed Internet access and standard software like Windows Media Player or Flash Player.
Technical support would be available 24/7, Loughlin added, and Total Webcasting could provide the county with non-identifying information on how many people are viewing each webcast (even showing the zip codes of viewers).
Loughlin did say that these prices are negotiable should the county decide to make a long-term commitment to webcasting.
Committee Chair Alan Sorensen felt allowing people to see meetings when and where they want could revolutionize local government.
“I think it would greatly enhance people’s access to government and just make it more open,” he remarked.