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City not live yet

Council meetings taped

Posted: Monday, February 25, 2008

Lights; camera; inaction could best describe the status of an idea to broadcast meetings of the Kenai City Council.

Since the council first gave the green light to studying the proposal, in May 2007, little has happened other than a Kenai Central High School student now attends each meeting, recording most of the proceedings with a video camera.

So far, that's it.

It's not for lack of trying; it's just that it takes a lot to get from videotaping to airing a public meeting, especially when part of the goal is to do it at the lowest possible cost to taxpayers.

Kenai Central High School graduate and former city council student representative Leslie Krusen presented a formal proposal to the city last year, after the council agreed it would be a good idea to make the meeting deliberations available to residents who are unable to attend meetings in person.

City council meetings, which take place at 7 p.m. on the first and third Wednesdays of the month, are open to the public, but unless a highly contentious issue is on the agenda, normally two people other than council members and city department heads attend.

With the support of Councilman Bob Molloy, Krusen suggested students particularly football players could videotape the meetings for airing on local television.

The first snag came in the form of infrastructure. GCI Cable Co. does not have a cable serving Kenai City Hall so meetings could not be broadcast live.

To skirt that issue, the city worked out an arrangement to have videotapes delivered to GCI for delayed broadcast preferably the day after the council meeting.

Concern then arose over the unavailability of a student to tape the meetings during Christmas break and over the summer.

Options have been presented ranging from taping meetings only during the school year to contracting with a professional to tape all meetings. Estimates received for having a pro do it came in at $50 per meeting and $500 per meeting.

Until now, the high school has not signed a contract with the city to provide the service.

During discussions at last week's city council meeting, Mayor Pat Porter said, "This was supposed to be a student project, not us hiring somebody."

City Clerk Carol Freas said she was concerned that GCI needs an assurance that the city would have tapes available after every meeting. The cable company would be blocking out a specific time slot for airing the proceedings after every meeting.

On Friday, Freas said she is recontacting GCI representatives to determine their actual requirements.

Freas also revised the contract with the high school pursuant to council wishes, and said she has sent it to KCHS Principal Alan Fields for signature.

Councilman Rick Ross said he recalled, as did Porter, that the original idea was to have the videotaping done as a student project.

"If GCI would allow discontinuing (taping) during the summer, I'd like to know that," Ross said.

Councilman Mike Boyle said, "I recall we wanted to give the (city council meeting) information to the public. When we have students, OK; if not in the summer, hire somebody.

"Let's get this on the air," Boyle said. "We don't need to talk anymore."

Later in the meeting, Bob Peters one of the two residents who attends nearly every council meeting said he objects to paying someone as much as $500 to videotape a council meeting.

"Nobody cares. People come when they want their streets paved or they want you to build a hockey rink or something," Peters said. "The only people who come want something or want to complain."

Boyle said he believes one of the responsibilities of the city council is to make meetings available to as many residents as possible.

"The mother with three small kids can't always get out to a meeting," he said.

Boyle also said he believes council members "should get our public to care."

Peters said Boyle convinced him.

Phil Hermanek can be reached at phillip.hermanek@peninsulaclarion.com.



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