Friday, October 16, 2015

Lansdale talks televised meetings

Now that Lansdale Borough's staff have moved into their new municipal building, officials are revisiting an issue tabled for most of the last two years.
Council's Communication Commission is starting to revisit the possibility of televising borough meetings, according to commission Chair Denton Burnell.
"We've obviously capable of televising things, video recording things, so now that we're in this fancy, cool space, what can we do?" Burnell said.
Before leaving the previous borough hall in 2013, the commission had broached the topic of televising meetings and posting the video on the borough website
Since then, the website has been revamped and modernized, and the new borough building "is certainly wired for" video recording equipment, Burnell said, thus restarting a discussion that's been on hold for years.
"There's obviously a lot of questions to be answered: are we buying this stuff? Are we renting that stuff? What do we have to do with regards to a public access channel? Who would manage the equipment? So on and so forth," he said.
Some of those responsibilities could be part of the role of the borough communications coordinator, a position that has been vacant since early August.
According to Burnell and borough Manager Jake Ziegler, candidates for the coordinator position are still being interviewed, and a new employee could be in place by mid-November.
That new coordinator, once they're in place, could draw on a shared services agreement with the North Penn School District to discuss how the district's NPTV channel does their broadcasts, and the hard- and software they use.
"We could have them come in, look at our situation, and say 'Hey, we can help you here, here are some recommendations we can make,'" Burnell said.
"At least, starting the conversation with them to start to build a framework for the type of things we would need to do, in order to leverage and publicly televise on a public access channel our meetings," he said.
With talks on the 2016 borough budget underway, any large equipment expenses such as multiple large cameras would likely wait until 2017, but low-cost options such as a single-camera setup could be implemented sooner depending on the answers to the cost questions.
"I'm committed to realizing at least one of those options in the next 12 months. I would assume that the video recording options could happen much quicker than that, and at a relatively low expense to the borough," he said.
The website and channel could have fresh content, if another project discussed by the commission comes to reality.
Commission member Carrie Hawkins Charlton suggested a Civics 101 program, or a series of courses introducing residents to local government and how it works.
"You can learn about the police department, learn about the fire department, learn about borough government: what we do, how our local government is structured, the processes that we go through, and some basic information about how our budgets are structured," Burnell said.
Those courses could be offered in person by borough department heads, and could run four to six weeks and result in an honorary certification for those who complete the courses.
"The idea is to engage people who don't normally come to council, who perhaps aren't really engaged, and don't really have a sense of what we do, but might be interested," he said. 
"The goals are simple: getting people more engaged and interested in their local government, and hopefully not just engaged but more involved," said Burnell.
In recent months the commission has welcomed three new members and shifted from monthly to quarterly meetings, and as part of that reorganization Burnell was renamed as the commission Chair and Charlton as Vice-chair. The group also discussed the new look of the North Penn Water Authority's water tower near Third and Richardson Streets, which now sports the new borough brand and logo developed by the commission, and a possible update to the recently revamped borough website The upgraded site is able to track users' stays and how they find certain data, and Burnell said the commission and new coordinator could use that data to make certain features more prominent and easier to find.
"We don't really know with any great certainty how people are using (the site), so I'm very keen to leverage any data tracking metrics that we have," he said.
Examples discussed by the commission include promoting more economic development topics for outsiders visiting the site, linking borough social media channels to the site, and reconfiguring photos that appear distorted due to the page framing. 

 Lansdale's borough council next meets at 7 p.m. on Oct. 21 at the borough municipal building, 1 Vine Street. For more information or meeting agendas and materials visit or follow @LansdalePA on Twitter.

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