COLONIE — Town Board meetings will soon be live streamed and available for viewing on the town’s website.
The town, one of the largest municipalities in the Capital District, has not live streamed its meetings or taped them for broadcast on television because, officials said, it is cost prohibitive given the aged Town Hall that was constructed in 1964.
But, at the Thursday, June 22, meeting, the Town Board voted unanimously to enter into a contract with Accella (Carahsoft) for $7,501.78 per year to livestream the bimonthly meetings. They will later be broadcast on channel 17, the town’s government access channel as supplied by what was then Time Warner under the current cable television franchise agreement the cable company has with each municipality where it has customers.
The contracts were carried over when the company was sold to Spectrum and there is a similar agreement in place with Verizon, the town’s other cable provider.
Unlike some other municipalities, that franchise agreement, which expires in 2022 but can stay in effect while another is negotiated – a process that can take years – did not include the infrastructure necessary to broadcast from Town Hall. The majority of the current equipment provided through the agreement is at the town library.
Supervisor Paula Mahan said the initial investment to install appropriate wiring and purchase cameras and a sound systems will be about $25,000 and then the yearly cost will kick in.
“We will only have to turn it on when the meeting starts but it will be managed by the company,” Mahan said. “We had so many things to address and we only had so much in the budget. We have been working towards this and at this point we should be all set.”
She said bringing the meetings to living rooms – and wireless devices – has not been a priority given the financial quagmire she and her administration had to dig out of first. The largest impediment, though, wasn’t the cost of equipment, it was the antiquated Town Hall and it’s aged wiring and other infrastructure. Town Hall was built in 1964 and has seen little upgrades since it first opened its doors.
Town Board member Jennifer Whalen, who has pushed for the public airing of meetings said previously it wasn’t “rocket science.”
At the last meeting she applauded the fact it will happen before the fall.
“I’m all about transparency and open government,” she said. “I think it is something our residents want.”
Most of the debate over Town Board business happens before the meetings at what is known as an agenda session, where the members ask questions and weigh in on agenda items. It’s unclear if the town has plans to also broadcast those meetings or if other meetings – like the Planning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals and others held at the Public Operations Center on Old Niskayuna Road – will follow suit and also be live streamed and then played on television for those who don’t.