Melissa Reeder, Northfield’s Information Technology Department manager, has set a goal to begin uploading streaming videos of the City Council meetings to the Internet in 2010, so long as there is money in the budget for the $8,000-$10,000 upgrade.
With streaming videos, image files flow to a video player on a Web site in a continuous stream and play when they arrive. Before streaming technology, a Web user would have to download an entire file before watching a video, which could take a long time. Reeder referenced Burnsville’s Web site as an example of a nearby community that uses streaming video.
Using streaming video on the Northfield’s Web site is one of several goals Reeder is striving to meet in order to improve city services and increase organization of the city’s files.
“Thank goodness the city clerk has been here for as long as she has, otherwise it would be very hard to search for information in our files,” Reeder said, laughing.
Part of the technology upgrade would include digitizing more of the city’s documents and entering them into a new system that makes finding, using and sharing the documents easier.
With streaming videos, Reeder said, the system would allow viewers to use a “clickable” agenda. The user would click the agenda item and the video would instantly begin to play at the appropriate spot.
Before she can upload streaming videos, Reeder needs to help the city change its agreement with PC Solutions Inc., which hosts the city’s Web site, or find a new company to be the host. The current agreement with the Twin Cities-based PC Solutions does not allow streaming videos to appear on the site, she said. The contract can be changed or ended at any time.
In addition to adding features to the city’s Web site, Reeder said she would hope the council would approve a redesign of the entire site. The current site launched in 2005 and has been revised slightly over the years. There are some things that cannot be adjusted without a complete overhaul, however.
“There site we have now is very narrow, so there’s a lot of real estate for information on either side,” Reeder said, referring to the fact that most of the Web site’s content fills the space in the middle of a Web browser window but doesn’t stretch into the side margins.
Reeder is planning on calling other cities nearby to find out how much those governments paid for their Web sites. She is unsure how much Northfield would likely spend. She said she believed money from the cable television franchise fee revenues could help pay for streaming video upgrade. Franchise fee revenue can fund any public expense, but usually funds communications-related expenses. Money from the general fund would likely pay for the document-sharing technology, she said.
Northfield’s public access television station, which airs the City Council meetings, received $30,000 in franchise fee revenue in 2007. In that year, the city collected $183,034 total from franchise fees. Reeder said money would likely continue to go toward the public access station to fund governmental programming even if videos of the meeting are available on the city’s Web site.
“We like to get the information out there using as many different means as possible,” Reeder said.
Next step: How will the City Council tap into the Cable TV Fund, which has about $766,000, in 2009?