While the majority of South Peace municipalities continue to livestream council meetings, Beaverlodge council is distancing itself from livestreaming its public meetings.
The City of Grande Prairie, County of Grande Prairie, Town of Sexsmith and Town of Wembley livestream their council meetings.
Beaverlodge administration gave council a list of pros and cons of livestreaming public meetings. The pros include transparency, increasing engagement, accessibility to council, and accountability. The cons include potential technical issues, ongoing cost of staff, IT support and capital cost setup.
Council previously approved $40,000 for renovations to council chambers which allocated $15,000 for technology upgrades including the ability to livestream.
Council decided it would continue with the renovation and technology upgrade, but livestreaming outfitting will be held off until a later undetermined date.
Jeff Johnston, Beaverlodge CAO, said the cost of livestreaming would be more than $20,000.
“The fact that we have not had members of the community coming to be in our gallery to observe council is a couple of things,” said coun. Judy Kokotilo-Bekkerus.
“Number one, they (residents) are really pleased with what we're doing.
“They have enough information, or they're just not interested, and I don't know how much that's going to change if we offered this additional platform.”
Coun. Gena Jones said she agreed and added that council had more pressing issues. She said she was disappointed that the coffee with council event only had two residents in attendance.
“I think that we're making an effort to communicate, and our community needs to make an effort to come and be part of it,” said Jones.
The proposal to livestream council meetings was brought to council by a resident.
“Until we see more people wanting this, it's really hard to justify the cost,” said coun. Cyndi Corbett.
Coun. Cody Mould said he believes now isn’t the time for livestreaming, but it should be brought back in the future, perhaps in five years.
Coun. Cal Mosher said adding livestreaming would add stress to management and administration.
“I think they're stretched by enough time to deal with the things we're working on at the present time, so I don't support it,” said Mosher.
In council's strategic plan set down in March, improvement communication was listed as a first priority area of focus.
“We will continue to broaden the way we communicate to and get communication from residents and businesses, ensuring increased public engagement and two-way conversations on information matters,” stated the plan.
At the March 14 council meeting, Town & Country News publisher Rebecca Dika asked for council's support of the local newspaper through a discounted advertising agreement with a town-wide subscription plan to broaden the town's communications. The proposal would be similar to a plan used by The Town of Sexsmith for several years.
Dika suggested to Beaverlodge council the upgraded ad plan would allow for biweekly publication of the Beaver Tails newsletter within it, as well as a pool schedule.
Council voted against it, noting the town’s own Beaver Tails newsletter would be used to reach residents. It is published quarterly, though had been on hiatus for some time due to a lack of staff to fold and insert the newsletter. Some councillors have volunteered their time to fold and stuff envelopes so that the newsletter would continue.
Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News