Commission Meeting Minutes
Minutes of the March 14, 2022, 4:30 p.m. Commission Workshop
The Workshop of the Lady Lake Town Commission was held in the Commission Chambers at Lady Lake Town Hall, 409 Fennell Blvd., Lady Lake, Florida, with Mayor Jim Rietz presiding. The meeting convened at 4:30 p.m.
A. Call to Order
Mayor Jim Rietz
Bill Lawrence, Town Manager; C.T. Eagle, Public Works Director; John Pearl, IT Director; Thad Carroll, Growth Management Director; Pam Winegarder, Finance Director; Nancy Wilson, Town Clerk
C. New Business
Discussion regarding live streaming of Town Commission meetings
Mayor Rietz started with a couple comments. He wanted this to be an all-or-nothing vote, and he was disappointed that Commissioner Holden was not present so they could all weigh in on the matter. He said he has been involved in communications for many years utilizing different platforms and services. Technology has advanced and at the same time, prices have gone down. The Mayor went into more detail about his technology experience explaining his background and the projects and equipment he has used.
Town Manager Lawrence said the purpose of the meeting was to educate the commission about options available and the pros and cons of those options. He said that a question he wanted answered was how the Town wants to present itself. The Town is growing at a faster pace than in the past so do we want to keep up with that growth by improving our technology and include livestreaming? He said that John Pearl did the research and leg work for this workshop and is going to provide the commission with information to aid in their decision on what direction to take.
John Pearl – IT Director
Mr. Pearl thanked staff from the cities of Eustis and Tavares along with Lake County for taking the time to answer his questions. He had three topics he wanted to focus on:
- History of Lady Lake technology and where we are now
- Findings of his interviews with staff mentioned above
- Outline three meeting types
Regarding history: During the Covid-19 stay at home order in 2020, the town had to facilitate remote meetings. The Chambers audio-visual equipment was about 20 years old and there were no cameras so we used two smartphones and Microsoft Teams to conduct meetings. A lot of time was spent on this effort before, during and after meetings. The video quality was poor, there was limited control of the meeting experience, meetings were not recorded and there was no closed captioning. However, they were able to deliver an inexpensive solution for the immediate need. Since that time, the commission has approved replacement of the audio-video equipment including three cameras. The new equipment has been in place for about a year.
Regarding interviews: Mr. Pearl visited with Eustis staff to discuss live streaming and he talked to staff in Tavares and Lake County. Each of the three organizations has been streaming for several years; each has multiple cameras, dedicated camera-switching equipment and video-coding hardware. All use an add-on feature available in their agenda management software to facilitate streaming. Eustis and Lake County have moved on to other solutions including Zoom and Youtube. None of them streams every meeting and only one-way communication is provided, except in Lake County who provides two-way communication via Zoom, this allows the public to engage directly in the meetings.
Each organization has a communications staff that either produces or participates directly in the meetings. Mr. Pearl explained what activities are performed and by what staff in each of the three organizations.
Regarding meeting types: There is the town’s current meeting type which is one meeting type; the second meeting type is exemplified by virtual meetings facilitated by Zoom, Teams, Webex, et al, which is what the town used during the shutdown and the third meeting type called virtual event meetings, aka, live streaming. These are the different types of meetings that have different requirements to produce. While each may utilize the same equipment, production is different and has different requirements.
The first meeting type is what we do now; it is simple to operate and hasn’t changed over the years. Powerpoint presentations are projected and controlled at the podium computer. The second type is the virtual meeting which can currently be conducted in our commission chambers with little to no staff support. These meetings have many participants who can freely comment and participate as they wish. In this case, the user experience cannot be controlled. The chamber cameras are set to auto-tracking mode so the camera will follow the “hot” microphone which negates the need for dedicated staff to produce the meetings. The final meeting type is the virtual event where multiple tasks are controlled by multiple people. Producing a live stream event is different from a virtual meeting in that multiple tasks need to be managed simultaneously. At a minimum, roles such as producer and presenter must be filled throughout the duration of the meeting. Other roles such as moderator and monitor may also be appropriate. Additional items of consideration include retention requirements of recordings and must ensure closed captioning is provided. Depending on the quality expectation, additional work effort may be needed before, during and after meetings related to creating and curating content, public communication, and technical support.
Currently, we have most of the equipment that would be required to enable a virtual event. We must discuss the engagement expectation for livestreaming and determine who would fill the necessary roles. We have not invested in camera management equipment or coding hardware that other organizations we visited have but we may not need it. In conclusion, additional space in the Commission Chambers would be needed for production staff.
Commissioner Hannan asked Mr. Pearl a question to which he responded that our equipment is software based so it is not as flexible as the hardware-based equipment that Mayor Rietz possesses that is like the hardware utilized in Eustis. He added that in any case, two people, maybe more, would be required to perform the livestreaming event. Everything depends on the expectations of the Commission.
Town Manager Lawrence said that certain organizations have communication departments, but the bottom line is what the Town wants. What is our goal?
Commissioner Hannan stated that two-way communication would not be good for the town initially.
Commissioner Kussard asked several residents what they thought of Lady Lake providing livestreaming, and they asked her why we would do that; they are not interested in watching meetings on television adding that attending meetings in person provides a “personal touch.”
Commissioner Freeman said a younger demographic lives in his Ward and some of them cannot attend meetings. He commented that this additional service would offer a lot to those who are not available, for whatever reason, in the early evening hours or who have other things to do. He also likes the idea of reaching more people.
Commissioner Kussard agreed that people may not be able to attend a meeting but how many would really watch a streamed commission meeting. She said that personal interaction is important especially at the local level of government.
Commissioner Freeman said that most younger people do not want to personally engage; communication is by text or by online engagement.
Mayor Rietz added that the meetings would also be recorded so they could be watched whenever it is convenient for the viewer. He wants to discuss this matter more when all five Commissioners are present and when information is available that will allow them to make an educated decision. He wants the full Commissioner to be on board.
Commissioner Freeman asked what the salary expectation would be for the required job position. Mr. Pearl said to get a good Communications Director the Town would likely need to expend $60,000+ per annum. He added that a communication staff would do a lot and the town would own its own narrative instead of local media owning it.
Commissioner Kussard said she has a concern about cost compared to how many people would actually utilize the service.
Mayor Rietz asked if website traffic counts are tracked to which Mr. Pearl responded that he could activate the counter and report traffic counts after 30 days; he previously turned off the service to save money. The Mayor suggested putting a survey on the website to get a feel for how many people would be interested in having the meetings livestreamed.
Town Manager Lawrence said he was looking to see if down the road we would be livestreaming so he would know how to proceed with the chamber renovations. He was interested in the commissioners’ level of interest.
Commissioner Hannan suggested having another workshop when all five commissioners would be in attendance.
Mayor Rietz also wants to consider having a social media presence.
Mr. Pearl asked for a couple weeks to gather more information to present to the commission.
J. Public Comment
There were no comments from the public.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 5:13 p.m.