On Thursday, Nov. 8, after seven years, the Wrightsville Beach Board of Aldermen unanimously passed a resolution to provide online streaming of the town’s meetings. Wrightsville Beach Mayor David Cignotti said Walt DeVries first proposed the idea when he ran for a position on the board of aldermen several years ago.
The resolution included accepting a donation from Wrightsville Beach resident Bill Columbus for the necessary audio/visual equipment to broadcast the town’s meetings on the Internet. Columbus’ offer includes donating a new camcorder, a digital encoder and one year’s worth of the $350 annual fee for the online cloud hosting website Livestream, all totaling roughly $2,345.
Although Columbus initially made his presentation during the board’s previous meeting on Oct. 11, town attorney John Wessell wanted to explore the legal obligations surrounding posting the town’s meetings on a private online server like Livestream that the town does not own. At the Nov. 8 meeting, Wessell said he felt confident that the town would not encounter any legal problems by doing so.
Wessell was concerned that Livestream’s terms of service would prohibit the town from using the streamed meetings as a public record, he said. Since Livestream reserves the right to remove any content from its server at any time, Wessell said this allows the town to use the service without using it as a public record because of the lack of control the town would have over how long the videos are stored on the server. The public record of the town’s meetings will continue to be the meeting minutes prepared by the town clerk, Sylvia Holleman.
In the first year of streaming the meetings, the only cost the town will incur is a $700 fee to upgrade the bandwidth limit in Town Hall. Bandwidth is the transmission capacity of a computer network or telecommunication system. After the first year, the town would have to pay for that additional Internet service fee each year as well as the $350 annual Livestream fee, if a cheaper alternative service is not identified.
The town’s information technology manager, Raquel Ivins, said the amendment to the town’s Internet contract with Time Warner Cable should be addressed at the board’s Dec. 13 meeting and that, if so, the system would be operational by January.
The town’s first Unified Development Ordinance also unanimously passed during the board’s Nov. 8 meeting. During the past year the town’s UDO Advisory Committee and Holland Consulting Planners drafted the document that modernizes and centralizes the town’s land development regulations and planning ordinances into one document.
One of the two requests by the Wrightsville Beach Police Department for new equipment was approved at Thursday’s meeting. Although the department planned to purchase an electronic fingerprinting system and personal body cameras using the remainder of the grant funds from the North Carolina Department of Crime Control and Public Safety grant, chief Dan House said the grantor would not support using the funds to purchase the fingerprinting system since it was an item the town included in the FY 2012-13 budget. The grantor did approve using the funds to purchase personal body cameras for officers at a total cost of $17,100. The remaining grant funds would account for $12,825 of the cost and the board approved providing a $4,275 match.
House said the beach patrol officers tested the cameras throughout the summer and that they were instrumental in clearing the officers in cases in which those confronted by the officers filed complaints about them.