Audio recordings of city council meetings to be available online

April 25, 2016

A six-month audio recording trial of West U City Council meetings could determine whether the council ultimately decides to broadcast their meetings live and to archive them.

The council voted unanimously Monday to allow audio recordings of city council meetings available on the city’s website. The recordings will be available for six months at which time, Gary McFarland, the city’s IT Director, will give a detailed report on the number of ‘hits’ and ‘web traffic’ the recordings received.

In that same vote, council also directed McFarland to seek out prices on internet video broadcasting of the meetings.

The council arrived at the motion after a lengthy 45-minute discussion on the topic which included a presentation of a proof-of-concept of an audio-recording of a council meeting. The prototype — which is live on the city’s website — shows an agenda packet for a previous council meeting. Underneath each agenda item there’s an audio player that lets the users hear the audio recording discussion of that specific agenda item.

The cost for the proof-of-concept was $500, said McFarland adding that, “creative use of existing resources is always the most desired.” The proof-of-concept is similar to what Deer Park, TX uses for its city council meetings.

Despite its low-cost, the proof-of-concept will require time to gauge the ‘web traffic’.

“”It’s gonna have to be advertise and broadcasted that it exists. It will take a period of time for people become aware that it does exist so that evaluation period needs to be considerable,” said McFarland to council, who then suggested it be six months to a year.

The discussion among council members delve into what the best course of action is and whether an action is needed at all.

Council members Bob Kelly and Brennan Reilly support the idea of council meetings being broadcasted live and archived.

Kelly said it’s important to, “get the word out to the public and if they want to take advantage of it, they can. If they don’t want to take advantage that’s their choice.” He added that as a government, the city is providing a resource that gets the council meetings out in the open.

Mayor Susan Sample and Council member Mardi Turner were on the opposite side of the fence with their chief concern being a cost-driven one.

“If we’re getting [web] traffic like you’ve [McFarland] seen in Deer Park, Bellaire, or some of these other similar cities, where we only have five or ten people who are looking at these things,” said Turner. “Then I really have a hard time spending any money on a more sophisticated all encompassing solution.”

Council member Burt Ballanfant echoed Turner’s comments on the matter.

The council will revisit the topic in six month’s time.