Wiring is next step for Phillipston meetings broadcast 

  • Chuck Kobenson, clerk of the Phillipston Cable Advisory Committee, gestures while answering a question from the audience at the Selectboard’s meeting Monday night. ATHOL DAILY NEWS/DEBORRAH PORTER

Staff Reporter
Wednesday, February 28, 2018

PHILLIPSTON — Selectmen will soon have the option of broadcasting their meetings live or on YouTube and keeping the videos as public record.

Chuck Kolbenson, clerk of the Cable Advisory Committee, advised selectmen this week that “it is a good time” to install the wiring in the selectmen’s room on the second floor of Town Hall to support the broadcast of meetings.

The current balance in the franchise fees fund is $47,200, and that’s where the money to do the work would come from.

What is needed is a conduit from the television station equipment location to the meeting room, support shelves and wiring for mounted cameras, power, and supporting HDMI or AV cables. The project is on track to initiate cable build-out on either Williamsville Road (where there are six homes without cable connection, and who have been waiting the longest) or South Royalston Road, with 10 homes waiting. There are also single homes without connection on Templeton, Colony and Whitney roads. The board was advised to pick one road soon so work can begin in May. It is expected to take nine months.

The person or people handling the camera operation will need a small video control room with visible access to the meeting room. The former police department office next to the meeting room was suggested as an option.

The town will have the option to broadcast live, record meetings and archive, and live stream them on YouTube. All require people to set up, turn on, monitor, switch, tear down, process the video and upload the finished session to the internet.

Kolbenson said no one has come forward for the station coordinator job. He said it was assumed an intern would be paid $1,000 a year, and a station manager $3,000 a year (an estimated $13 to $15 per hour to set up and watch cameras) from the franchise fees.

The town lost its program coordinator last year because the person willing to do the job moved on. It was recommended then that a stipend be offered and the position advertised. The town earns about $3,900 per quarter in cable franchise fees, according to Kolbenson, so the cost of the stipend would come from the cable bill, and not from the tax base.

Equipment could be as simple as staff to observe and control a single camera and laptop, or multiple cameras, laptop, processing software, and staff to control and process the video.

Hiring of the station program coordinator has stalled. Kolbenson said an arrangement had been made with Narragansett Regional School, but fell apart for one reason or another. Tom Specht suggested the town contact Mount Wachusett Community College, or Athol High School, to see if there is any interest.

Kolbenson said it would be possible to record meetings using the town’s GoPro camera, but the video and sound would not be of the best quality. He also noted that it takes tens of gigabytes to record a meeting, which requires compression to upload to the internet.

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