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Portage County Board of Commissioners to stream meetings live online

January 3, 2012
Original Publication : December 29, 2011 by Mike Sever
recordpub.com

Live, from Ravenna, it’s the Portage County Board of Commissioners!

With the start of the new year, county commissioners are joining a growing number of local governments that broadcast their meetings on the Internet.

Starting Jan. 3, commissioners’ Tuesday and Thursday weekly meetings will be available live. Also, meetings are archived so residents can go back and review commissioners’ discussions and actions on agenda items.

The web address for the site (http://portagecountyoh.iqm2.com/Citizens) goes to the county’s meeting location on the site for IQM2 Inc., a company that provides meeting webcast services for hundreds of local and state governments.

In August, the board agreed to move ahead with plans to stream its meetings. The board contracted with IQM2 and a camera was installed. The staff has been learning the system and getting the bugs out.

Cost is $13,117 for the first year and $9,600 annually after that. The first year’s costs are higher to pay for the camera and installation, officials said.

The system allows viewers to follow along with agenda items posted alongside the video viewer.

The board also have agreed to spend $1,654 on new microphones and $7,887 for a digital recorder to replace an old cassette recorder to help with sound quality.

Discussion of putting the meetings on the Internet started more than a year ago.

“The discussion started when (Chuck) Keiper was still in office,” said Commissioner Chris Smeiles.

“The board discussed the opportunity to invite the public to view our meetings on the Internet with the goal of providing more transparency of commissioners day to day business,” Smeiles said.

The board looked at options, including cable television which was determined to be too expensive.

Most of the time the meetings cover the routine of paying bills and updating the budget.

“However, occasionally there is an item of extreme interest to the public,” Smeiles said — like the recent outcry over funding for the senior center, or budget hearings with other elected officials.

Smeiles said he expects the Internet broadcast meetings will be beneficial for county government.

“People can see how commissioners decide things, or don’t decide things and decide for themselves.”

One thing viewers will notice is that county commission meetings differ from other government meetings people might be familiar with.

“Others are much more formal. You don’t just walk in and drop a topic on the table. We do all the time. I think our style is much more responsive and good for the county,” Smeiles said.

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