After error in cost estimates for professional service, Overland Park decides to stick with ‘bare bones’ meeting video for now

Mayor Carl Gerlach said the city should “walk before we run” on live streaming video of council meetings.

Ratings may play a part in how much meeting video Overland Park provides to the public.

Rather than pay more for live streaming of meetings provided by a professional service, the city council decided Monday to give their current “bare-bones” system six months and see how many people watch. The city will then gauge reaction to the current system in its next citizen satisfaction survey.

The city only recently started taping and live streaming city council meetings with its own equipment and posting the videos on YouTube. Council members had planned to hire Swagit Productions LLC to use its equipment and remote camera operators to improve the quality. The company was to tape planning commission and committee meetings and to provide an agenda indexed to the video.

But things hit a snag after the staff found it had underestimated Swagit’s costs by about $60,000 a year. That caused the council to reopen the discussion this week.

The council discussed a variety of options offered by Swagit on the number of meetings covered and the types of service, but could not come to a consensus.

For instance, some council members wanted to trim costs by just taping full council and planning commission meetings. Others said the committee meetings were more worthy of video because that’s where the most in-depth discussions happen. So they decided to keep on using the city’s single fixed camera, YouTube machine-generated closed captioning and staff’s technical expertise to keep the equipment running.

By using the lowest-cost option, the city can test public reaction before spending more, some members said. “Let’s walk before we run,” said Mayor Carl Gerlach.

But others said some of Swagit’s options would be economical while still providing good service. “We need to walk before we run but with (one of the Swagit choices) we’d be using both legs,” said councilmember Jim Kite.

Councilmember Logan Heley said the council should remember the public service reasons the videos are being made. The videos help keep a better record for staff and help citizens prepare for speaking to the council, he said. Heley added that recordings of afternoon planning commission meetings would help people like himself, who can’t get away from work to see what’s going on.

“We aren’t doing this for the ratings,” he said. “We’re in this to do our jobs as best as possible.”