The prospect of purchasing new technology for recording county board meetings and providing online public access to the recordings dominated the discussion Tuesday as the Scott County Board of Supervisors considered next year's capital budget.
During a budget work session, the board continued its debate on how sophisticated a system to purchase as well as whether the demand exists for providing meeting recordings via the county's web site.
Matt Hirst, the county's IT director, told supervisors that $200,000 is budgeted in next year's proposed budget for a recording system as well as $50,000 in the current year budget. But, he said, county staff is looking for direction on what the board wants to do on the issue.
The topic of recording meetings and providing the recordings online has been discussed off and on for several years by the county board.
Hirst said estimates put the equipment costs at $50,000 to $75,000 for a system that is audio-only and $75,000 to $100,000 for video capabilities. Installing a software meeting management system would cost another $100,000 to $150,000.
"Our concern is if you just do hardware without a system to manage it that it becomes an unmanaged monster," Hirst said, adding that "dumping multiple hours of audio files" onto the web site is not a good solution.
Supervisor Ken Beck said he is frustrated the issue has not been solved.
"Our initial intent was just to get meetings recorded, and that option still is available," he said. "But it has morphed into this meeting management system, which is more beneficial internally to staff."
Hirst agreed staff would benefit but so would the public because the software provides the technology for indexing the recordings and making them searchable on the website.
With the software, a web user could click on a particular agenda item to watch that part of a meeting without going through the video of the entire meeting.
Board Chairman Tony Knobbe wondered, "Where is the driving need?" He said board agendas are available ahead of time and meetings are open to the public if people want to attend.
In addition, Hirst said the public can go to the county auditor's office, which keeps recordings of meetings to produce board minutes, and request to hear a meeting. But few requests have ever been made, he said. "Are we creating a system for a handful of folks?"
"Perhaps if accessing our transactions were easier, more people would do it," said Supervisor Ken Croken. "This has the opportunity of making our government transactions more accessible, more transparent. I don't understand the opposition to this."
The newly elected supervisor also suggested the county look at a recording system with "modular solutions that can be built upon."
Knobbe said he is concerned with how the culture of the meetings will change.
"My biggest fear is, especially with the video recordings, that it changes behavior," he said.
He said video recordings tend to make board members more hesitant to discuss matters freely. He also worries that it could attract members of the public "who want to rant and rave" in front of the cameras. "That's disruptive to doing the business we are charged with doing."
Croken responded, "People are allowed to come and say what they want. It's not our responsibility to ban people (from meetings) or saying what we don't want to hear."
Supervisor Brinson Kinzer suggested having more convenient meeting times so the public could easily attend "might take care of some of this."
He advocates moving the board's Tuesday committee of the whole meetings from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and the Thursday board meetings from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
"Let's come up with something the five of us can agree on," Kinzer said, adding "Prior boards are gone. This is the board that is going to have to make a decision."
After the meeting, David Farmer, the budget and administrative services director, said the board supported keeping the $200,000 for a recording system in the budget. No decision was made on what type of system.
The discussion was part of the board's review of the $7.4 million capital budget within the county's fiscal 2020 budget.
"A project is not a go until we come to the board with a recommended purchase," he said. "We set aside money in the budget, but until we have a vendor ... that's when the decision to move forward is made."