Town leaders are looking to expand their television audience, as they hope negotiations with Cablevision can net the town a trio of new portable cameras.
Town board members said on Tuesday morning that the new equipment, which would be used to record all community meetings at different town facilities, could be used to keep residents more in the loop about goings-on in Town Hall, while also working as a tool for local high school students interested in learning about the audio/visual field.
“What my hope is, is that we can develop full production capabilities,” Supervisor Scott Russell said. “Not fixed cameras, but cameras that can be manned by operators and taken to various meetings that take place in Town Hall.”
Currently, the Town Board’s regular sessions, held every other Tuesday night, are the only meetings broadcast on local access station Channel 22. The evening sessions are recorded and may be viewed at a later date on television or on the Town’s website a few hours after the meeting.
With the addition of the new cameras, Mr. Russell said the public could view all Town meetings including those held by Board of Trustees, Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals.
The proposed upgrades come as the Town is moving to renew its Cablevision franchise agreement that allows the town to use Channel 22. In addition, the passage of the 2014 budget allocates roughly $20,000 to improve Southold’s video capabilities.
On Tuesday, the board passed a measure to test the feasibility of idea.
Southold Town Network and Systems Administrator Lloyd Reisenberg said the town would hire Technical Consultant Jason Hodge, a former Cablevision employee with more than 30 years experience for a fee of about $65 to $70 per hour. Mr. Hodge is expected to nail down an exact cost for upgrading equipment, and advise the town what it can purchase should negotiations with Cablevision fail to include the desired upgrades. While the consulting work is only expected to take two hours, the resolution stated that the Town could spend up to $500 for the assessment.
While the town will foot the bill for the consultant, after the evaluation is complete, the Town believes its likely Cablevision would pay for the equipment, Mr. Russell said.
“The idea here is to use the leverage of negotiating the franchise fee to get funds to get production equipment up and running,” the supervisor said during the town’s Tuesday morning work session.
If the consultant, Cablevision and Town can come to an agreement on the new cameras, Mr. Russell suggested reaching out to local schools so students can learn and operate the equipment.
“In my view it’s not just about the things that take place at Town Hall, it’s about involving local students,” he said. “We have some very good audio/visual departments in our high schools who can start utilizing the infrastructure to perhaps film independent movies or their own programs. We’re looking at a community-based production.”