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New Town Website Ready for Unveiling

January 6, 2007
by Nicholas Morehead
IQM2 Sales & Marketing

Starting this month, Southampton Town will go online with an enhanced website that offers residence search capabilities unlike any other municipal site in the state.

The town intends to digitally record all board meetings and integrate the files with a new software program that will allow residence to search the minutes of those meetings online with a degree of specificity that is practically unheard of at the municipal level. That’s because a few weeks ago, the town unveiled its new advanced digital audiovisual recording system and camera schematic at Town Hall, both of which will help improve public access to town records.

Should interested parties want to review a specific portion of a meeting- say, the most recent public hearing of the proposed zone change for the Norsic & Son business in North Sea, which took place last month- soon they will no longer have to listen to hours of audiotape, watch for a rerun of the hearing on Sea TV, or read the minutes of the meeting, often available only weeks afterward.

Using new video-streaming technology to record meetings and broadcast them on the town’s website, town officials worked with CompuSolve, a Bohemia-based computer company to integrate a computerized search program that will allow people to review meetings on video and later direct themselves to specific points that interest them-tiny needles of information in what can often be a bureaucratic haystack.

“We’re essentially synchronizing meetings with resolutions, minutes, ect.,” Daryl Blowes, the President of CompuSolve told the Town Board during a recent work session.

Mr. Blowes, the son of Southampton Town’s general services administrator, Richard Blowes, noted that to date, no other municipality in the state has such an advanced search program that Southampton Town will soon boast.

Southampton Town Deputy Supervisor Robert Ross said the town plans to go online with the new system starting in January, possibly in time for the first Town Board meeting of the new year.

“The combined applications will help the town be more efficient and save time,” said the younger Mr. Blowes, referring to the new search technology and video streaming capability. He also noted that the town should save between $20,000 and $25,000 a year by utilizing the new technology because it will simplify the archiving and retrieval of information.

The new system will allow residence to not only find a specific part of a meeting but instantaneously call up the history of that topic, including resolutions, voting records and minutes relating to that subject at a computer terminal.

“This is the evolution of what is known as ‘Strong Democracy,’ by way of increasing the ability of people to interact with us and be informed,” Town Councilman Steve Kenny added.

In addition, the town plans to integrate voice recognition technology into the system, allowing search capability via the spoken word. Mr. Blowes said he would like to see that element factored into the equation by ate next year or early 2008.

The enhanced search capabilities complement a forthcoming new portal within the town’s website that will offer easier access to agendas, resolutions, minutes, legal notices and even notices to bidders.

Searchable via a host of criteria, including names, key words, and dates, the new technology will allow residence to search the text of resolutions and minutes, and even pull forward the complete legislative history of a particular resolution.

Mr. Blowes explained that two years of printed records are now searchable via the system at that level of specificity while an additional 13 years of “legacy” information is searchable online by date.

“You’re making reporters obsolete,” joked Southampton Town Supervisor Patrick Heaney.

For a week now, the town has been operating a new camera system that replaced a standard VCR format camera with 20-year old recording capability. The older system required hours of editing and downloading as well as frequent interruptions of meetings to change tapes.

The new system features three cameras that utilize high-definition hard drive technology that records everything digitally. The content is readily available fro uploading to the town’s website for online streaming. The town complements the new camera system with new SONY Anycast Station professional recording studio, which is the size of a briefcase.

Town Board members said they were also meeting Stony Brook officials and Sea TV representatives to discuss working on building a new recording studio in the technology center at Stony Brook Southampton in Shinnecock Hills, the former Long Island University campus.

Mr. Ross said hat Sea TV now offers a plethora of governmental shows ad information, and that the town intends to beef up the educational component.

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