City council set for return to prime time

 

Cameras and monitors have been placed in the council chamber at Dover City Hall.
(Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — It won’t be long before the Dover City Council meetings will be broadcast “Live, from City Hall” once again.

The bimonthly council meetings are expected to return to both the Comcast and Verizon cable networks on Aug. 14 with an improved feel, sound and look to them. They are also expected to be live-streamed on the city of Dover’s web page.

The TV productions will now be done by city staff via remote control at the meetings, which are normally held on the second and fourth Mondays of each month.

City Councilman Fred Neil said he is ready for the return of the broadcasts.

“Mark me in the ‘Delighted’ column with the resumption of the televising the council meetings,” Mr. Neil said. “The new system will allow us greater flexibility on what we can and will televise. As a former news reporter, transparency is a plus for the public we serve.”

Kay Sass, the city’s public affairs and emergency management coordinator, said on Wednesday that renovations, including all new wiring for the speakers, microphones and the installation of four remote-controlled video cameras, are just about complete.

Ms. Sass said community members seem to be very pleased that the meetings will be returning to television for the first time since Dec. 12, 2016.

“We have gotten feedback from the community quite a bit regarding the TV broadcasts,” Ms. Sass said. “A lot of them were missing the meetings because they’ve been on TV around the past 20 years. So many people relied on watching it.

“But everyone has been very understanding when we explained that it’s all (audio and video components) going to be renovated. Everything in council chambers was outdated. I believe the equipment was all built in 1973.”

City Council President Tim Slavin said earlier this year that he doesn’t mind having TV cameras capturing every moment and decision that is made during city council sessions.

“I believe that people appreciate transparency and we as members of city council appreciate it as well,” he said.

It had been a common sight at Dover City Council meetings to have a pair of camera operators focusing in on councilmen as they discussed the issues. Comcast had provided the equipment and technicians for the meetings.

However, city officials made the decision to take over and entirely automate the TV broadcasts following a change in its franchise agreement with Comcast, which had been looking to scale back the council telecasts.

The new audio and video equipment, purchased with grant money the city received from Verizon, will allow a city staffer to control all aspects of the TV broadcast from a tablet or touchpad.

Ms. Sass said next Tuesday she will be one of multiple city employees who will be trained to utilize the system, installed by Total Video Products out of New Jersey.

“We actually made a little production room area out of a closet,” she said. “We have expanded the doors and we have a full production area there now.”

Ms. Sass added that Total Video Products also made improvements to the City Hall’s conference room, caucus room and lobby and added a monitor out there so the public can see what’s happening inside the council chambers.

The next city council meeting is scheduled to take place on Monday, Aug. 14, at 7:30 p.m.

The city also has plans to begin broadcasting the Tuesday Council Committee of the Whole meetings that take place on the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month. Those were not previously broadcast.

Councilman Brian Lewis said earlier this year he thinks it’s important for the community to be able to tune in and watch as key decisions are made that will impact them.

“One important aspect of televising council meetings is the public gets to follow the work of their elected officials and (can) hold city staff and council members accountable for their actions,” Mr. Lewis said. “The other advantage is a lot of citizens cannot physically attend the council meetings due to their busy schedules such as work, family obligations, or attending evening classes, just to name a few.

“There are also many senior citizens in our city that do not like to drive or come out in the evening hours. Through televising the meetings it gives these people the accommodation to watch it from home or at a later date when it’s rebroadcast.”

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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