Dover City Council temporarily off the air

Council President Timothy Slavin

Council President Timothy Slavin

DOVER — Dover City Council President Timothy A. Slavin said he enjoys the transparency that live television broadcasts of council meetings bring to the community.

However, he said that due to upcoming improvements, the city council meetings will probably not be televised again until March as the city of Dover makes a transition into taking over the broadcasts of the meetings itself.

Both the Comcast and Verizon cable networks had been showing live telecasts of the meetings, which are normally held on the second and fourth Mondays of each month.

“The meetings will be back on television,” Mr. Slavin said. “We just have to get the technological improvements in place first.”

Until then, individuals who want to watch city council members make live decisions will have to travel down to council chambers at City Hall for the meetings.

When the broadcasts do return to TV, they should have an improved feel, sound and look to them.

Mr. Slavin expects the live broadcasts will be returning to Comcast and Verizon customers and will also be live streamed on the city’s web page. Previously, a recording had been made available on the city’s website a day after the meetings.

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

Mr. Slavin said city council members will review recent bids that will allow for the installation of a completely new sound and video system in the council’s meeting chamber in City Hall, including much-needed new microphones and speakers, which have been in place since the 1970s.

The city will also switch to an automated camera setup that will allow a city staffer to control all aspects of the TV broadcast from a tablet or touchpad.

“I think all of the improvements we are planning might push (future council telecasts) into March,” said Mr. Slavin. “When the improvements are finished, the meetings will hopefully not only be on TV, but we’re planning to live stream them on the internet as well.”

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, the Dec. 12 city council meeting was the last one to be broadcast on TV in 2016 and the next televised broadcast — which will be conducted by the city — will not take place until the improvements are in place.

No taxpayer funding for the improvements will be needed as grant money the city received from Verizon should cover the project.

The next city council meeting is to take place on Monday, Jan. 9, at 7:30 p.m.

The city also plans to begin broadcasting the Tuesday Council Committee of the Whole meetings that take place on the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month.

Councilman Brian Lewis said 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.”

Mr. Slavin 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.

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

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