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Coming soon to a computer or mobile device near you Salt Lake County Council meetings.
The council hasn't hit the go button yet, but it's looking to start live-streaming its work sessions and formal council meetings on the Internet.
The main question now is: Should this move into 21st century technology be done in steps, starting only with audio only of the meetings, with plans to add video later, once the bugs have been worked out? Or do package deals make it more cost effective to abandon the dark ages and plunge ahead with both live audio and video feeds at the outset?
"How deep should we dive?" Megan Hillyard, deputy administrative services director, asked the council recently. She was seeking direction on how much research to do into the potential costs of adopting contemporary methods of communication.
It's been a year since Republican Richard Snelgrove and Democrat Arlyn Bradshaw first broached the concept of making council meetings more accessible to the public.
At that time, Bradshaw said, many council members were concerned the transition could be cost prohibitive. So they started slowly and allocated enough funding for the county clerk's office to acquire the software needed to post audio recordings of meetings on the county's website.
Those recordings have been available since the council's Feb. 3 meeting.
In getting that part of the system up and running, council staff assistant Brad Kendrick said, the clerk's office realized there are software packages that would enhance the county's ability to post pre-meeting agenda materials, offer live coverage of the meetings and publish minutes afterward.
The nice thing about this approach is that "people can search everything," said Kendrick. "They'll no longer have to call up the clerks and have them search for them."
Council members seemed impressed with the possibilities. "I'm a big proponent of transparency, especially with our meetings during the [work] day when many people can't get involved," said Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton.
But Councilman Max Burdick wondered, "How much does it cost?"
Kendrick said that question was still being researched, citing expenses for software, maintenance, cameras and the acquisition of extra bandwidth, particularly if meetings are televised online.
The county will bear some expenses even if goes with just live audio initially, prompting Bradshaw to observe that "what we say is more important than what we look like on any given day. But I would like to preserve the option" of video down the line. Other council members nodded in approval.
Newton said live-streaming meetings also could improve the productivity of county employees, some of whom spend a lot of time at council meetings, waiting for agenda items that affect them to come up.
By live-streaming, she noted, they could stay at their desks and work while tracking the session's progress online "with half an ear," heading over to the meeting room only when it's time.