Ridge to start livestreaming meetings

The April 8 Maple Ridge council meeting will be a ‘test run’.

Maple Ridge is joining the rest of Metro Vancouver in livestreaming its regular meetings.

“We expect the first meeting in April will be livestreamed,” legislative services manager Ceri Marlo said at Tuesday’s council meeting.

The announcement followed a presentation by communications manager Fred Armstrong about the District of Maple Ridge’s new website.

Marlo said later that the first regular meeting on April 8 will be livestreamed as a test run, using the Mediasite system that allows simultaneous viewing of videos of meetings while following the agenda for that meeting. The district currently videotapes its council and committee meetings and posts them on its website a few days after the meeting. Livestreaming will use the same camera that’s currently used for videotaping.

Livestreaming, though, will allow voters to watch Tuesday evening council meetings in real time.

Pitt Meadows has offered that since 2009, using the feed from Shaw Cable broadcasts.

But Marlo pointed out that means relying on Shaw to cover the event.

Maple Ridge’s system will allow its in-house system to livestream all council meetings, regardless of whether Shaw is covering.

“If Shaw isn’t in attendance … we don’t have that issue.

“We also have the opportunity to do livestreaming of other meetings, whereas they don’t have that opportunity. We have the potential to do a majority of our meetings – recording, livestreaming.”

Once webcasts of regular meetings are underway, the district will look at livestreaming its Monday afternoon committee of the whole meetings, which also take place in council chambers, which is wired for sound.

That leaves council’s Monday morning workshops, where more debate usually takes place, still unrecorded and without any immediate plans for livestreaming.

“We’re looking into that now, into equipping that room to do recordings of meetings,” Marlo said.

But costs are involved with that, she added.

Livestreaming workshop meetings is more challenging because of recess breaks that take place throughout the meeting.

Webcasting from council chambers can be done without any extra costs.

Coun. Corisa Bell has previously called for workshop meetings to be recorded and staff are currently checking into costs for equipping the Blaney Room to allow that to happen.

Marlo said the livestreaming will be modelled after that used during the public budget sessions last fall.

She said with recent upgrades to the district’s system, livestreaming is now possible.

“We had to increase our bandwith to enable us to do that and that was done recently.”

Mayor Ernie Daykin said developing an in-house system took longer than simply using the Shaw Cable feed. A staff person is also required to operate the camera to provide five views of the proceedings.

Marlo added the intent was always to move to livestreaming when videos of meetings began in 2012.

A survey in February of websites found that cities from West Vancouver to Burnaby to Mission to Pitt Meadows all webcast their council meetings, with the exception of White Rock and Richmond, although the latter was considering it.

• The broadcast will be accessed through the district’s home page (http://mapleridge.ca/).