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Meeting Webcast proponents spell out plan

City considers whether council session broadcasts are in tune with Kenai residents' wishes, pocketbooks

Posted: Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Ironically, at the same time customers in the Anchorage Bowl last week were without Internet service due to a computer glitch, advocates of Webcasting Kenai City Council meetings were experiencing technical difficulties while presenting their idea to city officials gathered at a work session in Kenai City Hall.

Former city council student representative Les Krusen, who is promoting the idea along with Councilman Bob Molloy, was unable to link his laptop computer to a projector in the council chambers, prohibiting him from showing a PowerPoint presentation outlining his research.

Based on the premise that access to city council meetings needs to be improved and expanded, Krusen and Molloy have looked into broadcasting the meetings on radio, transmitting them via live or tape-delayed cable TV and sending them out over the Internet. Their preference is Internet Webcasting.

Currently all council meetings are conducted in the city council chambers in city hall and are open to the public the first and third Wednesdays of each month.

Meeting agendas and information packets are available at city hall and online the Friday before the council meeting and the agendas are published in the newspaper in advance of the meeting.

In May, when the idea of broadcasting meetings was first suggested by Krusen, council members agreed to have Kenai Central High School students videotape the proceedings and have the videos played over cable TV. Councilors gave the green light to giving the idea a try beginning with the upcoming school year.

In the meantime, Krusen and Molloy changed course and are now recommending the meetings be sent out over the Internet.

Krusen said KCHS football players, under the guidance of coach Jim Beeson, would operate video cameras photographing the proceedings for Webcast, and "the athletic department would make a game-film camera available to the city." Beeson did not attend Wednesday's work session.

Delayed cable TV broadcasts of the meetings would require Kenai residents to have a television set with cable access, which costs $19.99 per month for basic service.

Recommended Internet methods include "Online Archive," which requires residents to have a home computer with Internet access, which carries a minimum price of $19.99 a month for dial-up service; "Live Webcast," which requires a computer and $34 a month for high-speed Internet service; and "Live Network Camera," which also requires a personal computer and $34-a-month fee.

In Molloy and Krusen's proposal, they state: "Not all residents of the city ... have access to cable TV. Some of those who do have access to cable lack the means to afford the $19.20/month charged by GCI for its basic cable service."

In describing reasons they favor Live Webcast, they state: "... because all residents of the City of Kenai have access to the Internet ..."; and in describing Live Network Camera, they state: "... because all residents of the City of Kenai have the potential for access to the Internet, a live streaming Webcast of public meeting proceedings would be accessible to the largest and most diverse audience out of the three discussed media: radio, cable TV or Internet."

Although the only cost to the city involved with delayed cable TV would be a recommended stipend paid to students for operating the video camera, Live Webcast and Live Network Camera would cost $2,855 per year. Live Webcast also would require a one-time $1,500 for software and Live Network Camera would require a one-time cost of $199.99 for equipment.

During the work session, Krusen said, "Knowledge is power."

"We want (city council proceedings) to go to people who can't attend," Krusen said. "People have busy lives."

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



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