District of Houston office (File photo)

District of Houston office (File photo)

Council seeks to broaden electronic connection with residents

Grant used to upgrade audiovisual equipment

The District of Houston council is continuing to look for ways to transmit its meetings to those who aren’t attending them in person.

With $63,015.46 having now been spent to upgrade its audio visual equipment and that equipment installed last month, it has now asked staffers to look at the costs to livestream meetings and other events directly through the district’s website.

The direction to staffers, made when council met Nov. 2, came following discussion of a series of options presented by corporate services director Holly Brown.

The prospect of improving and expanding council’s ability to communicate virtually and remotely with the community was spurred on by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic last year which resulted in restrictions on public gatherings.

Thanks to a provincial grant provided to the district to deal with the effects of the pandemic, the district then upgraded its audio visual capabilities.

Options presented by Brown for broader public access to council included uploading recorded meetings from a software program called Teams to a YouTube channel that would be created for the District.

Those meetings would then be advertised through the District’s website or social media but the downside is that the meetings would not be shared “in real time to a wide audience, which may limit participation and the public’s ability to provide timely feedback,” Brown noted.

Council could use another software program called Zoom, which it would need to purchase, and through that broadcast meetings live over Facebook.

“Recordings would then be saved on the District’s Facebook page, which can be viewed at any time,” said Brown.

Council could also stick with what it has now — using Teams but the meetings would not be recorded and so could not be viewed later.

“Typically, it has mostly been utilized by planned delegates and has not seen wide use by general members of the public,” said Brown.

A final option presented by Brown would be to upgrade a current software program it has called ICompass Meeting Manager Software to allow live streaming of meetings by integrating with YouTube.

That would be the most expensive of the options at approximately $5,000 a year, Brown reported.

Whatever method council does choose, Brown said the audiovisual upgrades have improved the reception quality for those tuning in remotely.