Citizens will be able to watch Albemarle’s elected officials in action without attending a meeting now that the Board of Supervisors has unanimously voted to stream video of their proceedings over the Internet.
The decision to invest in equipment for the service overturned a previous vote against the initiative in December.
“I have become more appreciative of the idea,” said Supervisor Ann H. Mallek, one of three supervisors who originally voted against the idea.
The county plans to hire the firm Granicus to provide the video-streaming service which will include the ability to watch archives of previous meetings. The new service, officials said, will not eliminate the need for detailed minutes.
The service is scheduled to begin in May and will cost about $12,000 in the first year with around $6,000 in one-time equipment costs.
The system will include multiple cameras to switch views during meetings. A worker would be hired on contract to operate the system.
“They’re basically producing a television show,” Assistant County Executive Lee Catlin said. “One camera in this room will not work because you have to have a camera on [supervisors] and a camera on the podium.”
Catlin said she is not sure yet if the cameras will able to zoom in on individual supervisors as they are speaking. Initially there will be two cameras, but additional cameras can be purchased later.
“I think it’s important to make sure that wherever the camera is placed that it’s close enough to see everybody,” said Supervisor Liz Palmer, who has advocated for streaming the videos.
Advisory Councils Revisited
Supervisors also directed Catlin to conduct continue studying a new configuration for the Places29 Advisory Council. The group was suspended in December after a majority of the board felt it had become an ineffective body.
“There were things that were supported in an adopted master plan and they were not sure about whether they should be spending a lot of time going backwards and rehashing those or whether there role was to basically support what’s in the plan,” Catlin said.
Staff had suggested breaking the Places29 Council into northern and southern groups, but Mallek had another idea.
“From the very beginning, I’ve been really hoping that we could have three,” Mallek said.
She suggested that the three advisory groups be centered on the Hydraulic, Rio and Piney Mountain areas.
The suspension of the Places29 group has given the county a chance to evaluate the purpose of all of its master planning councils.
Supervisor Brad Sheffield said he has heard from many developers who feel that councils like Places29 have become barriers they must go through to get projects approved.
“I don’t know if previous boards have wanted that or if it is something we have to overcome,” Sheffield said.
Catlin said the councils, including Places29, do not have any legislative authority and are not intended to be miniature planning commissions.
Mallek said the Crozet Community Advisory Council has been successful in guiding development in that area of the county.
“They do see themselves very much as helpers,” Mallek said. She said projects are much more likely to gain approval if they get support of council, but it’s not a mandatory step.
“They are an initial sounding board and they are very aware that the planning commission can go and do something else,” she added.
Palmer suggested calling the advisory board committees instead of councils because that might convey that no votes will be taken.
Supervisors took no action on the Places29 group but said they will do so at a future meeting.