By Ashly McGlone
SAN LEANDRO -- Video broadcasts of City Council meetings will soon be available, bringing the city up to date with other Alameda County cities.
The City Council on Monday night unanimously approved more than $395,000 in upgrades to the audio and visual equipment in the council chambers that will allow community members to view broadcasts of meetings from the comfort of their homes or remotely with an Internet connection.
San Leandro is the last city in Alameda County to capture videos of its council meetings, city staff said. Other boards and commissions that use the chambers, including the San Leandro Unified school board, will have the option of using the equipment if they provide a video operator. The city has reached out to community colleges to see if a student may be interested in the work on a contract basis.
Mayor Stephen Cassidy said the move brings the city in line with its technology focus.
"We are positioning our city as a center of innovation in the Bay Area, yet there is some aspects to our city that are, so to speak, anachronistic and one of which is the fact that we do not video record our council meetings," Cassidy said. "I am hopeful this will lead to a broader understanding of city issues and in turn engagement by our community."
Currently the city records and posts audio of its meetings on its website using equipment more than two decades old, city staff said. Contractor AVI-SPL, Inc. will begin installing equipment in August, when the council is on recess, and plans to have the system up and running by the end of September. Once completed, council meetings will be streamed live and posted online for later access.
Among the additions will be four Sony HD tilt cameras, new audio and voting systems with touch pads on the dais and at the clerk's desk, a control room, document camera projector, as well as multiple video screens in the chambers and in overflow seating areas. New lighting will also be added to better illuminate the council and an area in the back of the room will allow news media to tap into the video feed.
The project will be paid for with Public, Educational and Government funds provided by fees collected on TV bills that can only be spent on capital projects that provide greater access to the government, staff said. About $186,000 in fees are collected annually, and $286,000 currently sits in the account. The city plans to borrow $150,000 from its informational technology fund to pay for the project and repay those dollars within two years, said systems analyst Michael Hamer.
Meetings will air on both city channels: Channel 15 for Comcast customers and Channel 99 for AT&T.
Recorded videos will be available on demand on the city's website for up to a year, with older videos available in a separate online archive.¿
Ashly McGlone covers San Leandro, San Lorenzo, San Ramon and the Washington Township Health Care District. Contact her at 510-293-2463. Follow her at Twitter.com/AshlyReports.