Overland Park advances measure to provide more robust live-streaming coverage of city meetings

First-term councilmember Logan Heley made streaming video of Overland Park meetings one of the main issues in his 2017 campaign.

Overland Park is moving toward a comprehensive new agenda and video system that will make it easier for people to watch city meetings remotely while keeping track of the accompanying agenda items.

A council committee gave the go-ahead Wednesday to a service offered by Dallas-based Swagit Productions and iCompass Technologies of New York, that will link meeting agendas to video and store archives. If the full city council approves, the system will begin to be implemented this summer. It is similar to one used by the county commission that is offered through a different company.

The new interface offers several improvements on what the city now offers. There would be multiple cameras, enabling viewers to see presentation slides and picture-in-picture of speakers. Viewers would also be able to click on an agenda item to skip to that place in the video, and they could bring up a copy of the document while the video is being played.

“I think this is exactly what we need,” said Councilmember Dave White, the chair of the Finance, Administration and Economic Development Committee. “People aren’t going to sit there and watch the whole meeting. But it is a resource that is out there for them and it is where we need to be.”

The video recording integrates a new agenda format as well. That became necessary because the Novus agenda system the council currently uses is going to be retired in 2020.

The new system would cost about $45,000 to initiate, followed by $40,000 a year. Annual cost would jump to $70,000 if closed captioning is included. With council approval, the city staff would begin negotiations for the exact costs.

The official minutes kept for legal reasons would not be changed.

If approved the new system would be a massive change from what the city offered just over a year ago. Prior to 2018, anyone wanting more detail than the written minutes had to ask the city to make an audio CD of the meeting and then pick it up at the city clerk’s office.

That changed a couple of months later, when the council began putting full council and committee meetings on YouTube. In the interim, Councilmember Logan Heley broadcast the meetings live on Facebook with the help of high school students.

Some council members had been skeptical of the cost of an upgrade because of questions about how many people would view them. But they were all on board Wednesday, after reviewing viewership numbers.

There were 6,845 views of council and all committee meetings from April 2018 through February of this year, with the majority being on-demand, rather than live stream views. If that trend continues, the numbers will be higher next year because recording of committee meetings didn’t start until mid June, when the remodeling work was finished on the room where they take place.

Councilmember Richard Collins said the cost of $11 per view, which is expected to go down over five years, is affordable. “That was one of my concerns at the outset was how expensive it was going to be,” he said.

The video system will be a step toward better transparency, said Councilmember Fred Spears. “Any city the quality of ours needs to have something just like this,” he said.