Meriden city manager wants new camera system to broadcast meetings

Meriden city manager wants new camera system to broadcast meetings


MERIDEN — The city manager is proposing the city buy a $40,000 camera system to broadcast public meetings at City Hall.

“We want to enhance what we’re doing today,” said Russ Ford, the city’s facilities and technology management director. “This will allow us to increase transparency by allowing us to film any meeting.”

The city now pays a contractor to record City Council and City Council finance committee meetings. Plans call for three cameras to be mounted on the walls and ceiling of the Council Chambers. No additional staff member would be hired to run the cameras, Ford said. Instead, high school students would be brought in to film the meetings for credit.

“They would be able to provide essentially free labor,” Ford said, adding that without having to pay for a contractor “in the long run it’s money-saving, it pays for itself.”

City Manager Guy Scaife did not return an email request for comment.

“It’s one of the city manager’s priorities ... to increase transparency,” Ford said.

The request is the latest from the newly formed technology department. The City Council approved a $500,000 plan to update the city’s phone system and is considering a $342,000 proposal to replace computers and update licensing software at City Hall.

Finance committee Chairman Miguel Castro, a Democrat, said the camera system needs to prioritized, especially in the tight budget proposed by Scaife. The city manager’s $191 million spending plan for fiscal year 2017-18 calls for a 0.28 percent increase over the current fiscal year.

“I won’t be in favor of a $40,000 camera investment nor will I be in favor of $30,000 for windows,” Castro said, referring to a request to spend $30,000 on window replacement at the public works administrative building. “These are high expenditures and being fiscally responsible should be our priority.”

Republican Councilor Dan Brunet was on the fence about the camera system, saying that while “rather expensive, the cost of camera system would recoup itself after only two years as the city currently pays about $20,000 annually for a contractor to record meetings.”

Brunet worried how live broadcasting would impact council discussion and public comment.

“Some councilors and individuals act unnatural and play to the camera, which detracts from a lot of productivity,” Brunet said.

Council Majority Leader Brian Daniels said he would not be in favor of funding the camera system because he does not believe it will attract a large audience.

“I think for $40,000 it doesn’t add anywhere near the transparency that is being touted,” Daniels said.
Twitter: @LeighTaussRJ

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