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Ogdensburg City Council looks to become capable of teleconferencing

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Teleconferencing may be the future of Ogdensburg City Council meetings as the body researches the most cost effective way to bring their meetings into the 21st century.

At Monday’s meeting, council gave City Manager John M. Pinkerton the go-ahead to do the leg-work to purchase two 55 to 60 inch televisions that will be connected to an Apple TV unit.

City Council will have to pass a resolution at a future meeting before the units can be purchased and Mayor William D. Nelson said he expects to have a resolution for council’s consideration at their March 24 meeting.

The screens will be mounted on the back wall of the City Council chambers and will have the technology to be easily connected to the iPads that all City Councilors have.

Mr. Pinkerton said the system will give councilors who are out of town the ability to participate in council meetings with video-conferencing software and will also make presentations in the council chambers more feasible.

Mr. Nelson said he doesn’t expect the system to be used for teleconferencing very frequently.

“This council is a hard-working, dedicated board,” Mr. Nelson said. “I don’t think they’re looking at saying, ‘I’m going to sit home and not come to council meetings.’

Mr. Nelson said he envisions the software will be used primarily when members are away on business trips.

Mr. Pinkerton said the state General Municipal Law green lights teleconferencing but requires that if council plans on using the technology they have to note it on their agenda.

Mr. Pinkerton said they also have to announce ahead of time where the out-of-town councilor will be so that any ambitious member of the public could join them at that location instead of at City Hall.

“It has to be on the agenda, it has to be announced and it has to say where that councilor will be,” Mr. Pinkerton said.

Moreover, councilors have to be clearly visible on the screen by meeting attendees and they have to be able to see the rest of the councilors, Mr. Pinkerton said.

Mr. Pinkerton said the Apple TV hookup costs $99 and each screen will likely run about $790.

Councilor Jennifer Stevenson said the system could also be used to facilitate training seminars which could result in saving money on travel expenses down the road.

Councilors Stevenson, William D. Hosmer and Michael D. Morley voiced their support for the idea.

But Daniel E. Skamperle said he plans on voting against the purchase.

“I don’t want to spend the money,” Mr. Skamperle said. “I don’t see it as a pressing issue.”

City Planning and Development Director Andrea L. Smith said she feels City Council needs the technology because they are currently borrowing equipment from Parks and Recreation and the planning department whenever they have power point presentations. They currently have no way for members to teleconference in, she said.

Despite his opposition Mr. Skamperle said that if the council was going to move forward with the plan he thought that the Apple TV system would be better than buying a more expensive projector.

Mr. Nelson said that if all goes well he believes they will have the system live within a month.

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