It won’t happen this year, but Brooke-Alvinston council is looking into the idea of taping council meetings.
Councillor Jamie Armstrong suggested the idea and staff looked into some of the costs and concerns with the idea.
In a report to council, Clerk-Administrator Janet Denkers says only four per cent of municipalities recorded open council meetings in 2017. Nearby Adelaide-Metcalfe is one of those. It purchased about $6,500 worth of equipment and estimates it takes about one or two hours of staff time to upload the video to a YouTube site after council meetings.
Denkers added the Town of Petrolia also looked into the idea and estimated it could cost between $11,650 and $30,000 to set up a video recording system.
Armstrong spoke in favour of the idea at Thursday’s council meeting saying it was helpful to be able to access council meetings on line in Adelaide-Metcalfe at the click of a button.
And he says a recording of a council meeting could be helpful should there be an investigation by the Integrity Commissioner into a councillor’s conduct. “With the video and an integrity commissioner’s (investigation) there won’t be so much of a he said, she said situation,” says Armstrong.
With the Integrity Commissioner charging about $280 per hour for his work, Armstrong contends it could save the taxpayers money.
The staff report also says, “being videotaped can drastically change the dynamics of a meeting including the comfort level of delegations presenting to council. All people should be comfortable with being videotaped as it can be perceived as a distraction in the council chamber,” Denkers wrote.
Councillor Frank Nemcek agreed. “I don’t feel comfortable with being taped,” he says. “People can read on the website what’s going on, they can come and see what’s happening here,” he said suggesting there was enough ways for residents to figure out what is going on at council. “I don’t feel comfortable.”
Armstrong doesn’t believe that will be a problem. “If people are aware of being taped, hopefully, they will be more respectful of proceedings.”
The report also points out the audio or video recording of municipal council meetings isn’t required under the Municipal Act.
Currently, Denkers is responsible for the official record of the council meetings. She says between three or four staff members take notes during public meetings and at least two staff members are present at in camera meetings.
She says she often checks her facts with other staff members to ensure the minutes are accurate.
In the last few months, staff has begun to post staff reports and minutes on the municipal website for residents to access.
Even if council wanted to move forward, Denkers isn’t sure it would be technically possible to upload video or audio on the current website. There is money in this budget to upgrade Brooke-Alvinston’s website.
Denkers report did note the Integrity Commissioner had suggested recording in camera meetings to be used only if there was a concern council might have discussed some matters privately, which should have been public. There was a recommendation that in camera meetings be recorded.
Instead, council agreed to have staff investigate the cost of recording meetings in Brooke-Alvinston. The results would be reviewed during 2020 budget deliberations.