Linn County supervisors go on camera

But the meeting videos will not be streamed live for the public

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Linn County’s Board of Supervisors plans to finally make use of a camera system installed in county boardrooms several years ago.

The board Wednesday voted 4-1, with Supervisor Brent Oleson opposed, to enter into a contract with Denver, Colo.-based Granicus to make the county’s video equipment operational in the Jean Oxley Building’s formal and informal boardrooms.

“I think in this day and age we need to be as transparent as possible,” Supervisor Amy Johnson said.

But while the video system will allow for public access to archived meeting videos, a live stream of the meetings will be accessible only to county officials, not the public, county staff said.

Streaming video that’s accessible by outside viewers comes with a higher cost.

The Granicus service will cost $9,000 upfront for computer hardware and an additional $850 a month to maintain.

Oleson described his position as a “protest vote” and argued the county already spends too much on the published minutes of supervisor meetings.

“I’m not voting against this because I don’t want us filmed, I’m fine with us being filmed,” he said. “I guess I’m frustrated we’re not getting any savings on the back end.”

Phil Lowder, Linn County information technology director, said the process of acquiring the contract began more than a year ago when he was directed by supervisors to explore options.

The board allocated more than $46,000 in this fiscal year’s budget for such an effort. The county sent requests for proposals to six companies.

Of the two that responded, Granicus’s proposal was easily the cheaper option. The second proposal, from Cedar Rapids company Accent Media, included a one-time fee of nearly $57,000 and monthly payments of more than $5,000.

Supervisor Ben Rogers said he recalled discussions a few years ago with Granicus over a similar video contract, which at that time was estimated to cost more than $50,000.

“The technology and price have both improved and decreased over time,” he said.

Lowder said the video service could be ready to go within 30 to 60 days.

The contract does not include staffing costs to operate the system.

The supervisors had a camera system installed in both their formal and informal boardrooms as part of the renovation of the county’s Public Services Center after the 2008 flood. The county moved back into the building in 2012.

The camera setup is more sophisticated than Auditor Joel Miller’s current single camera that sits on a tripod near the board during meetings. Supervisors said the system allows for different angles to focus on speakers or presentations.

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