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Ogdensburg City Council looks to become capable of teleconferencing

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

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

The council will have to pass a resolution at a future meeting before the units can be purchased. Mayor William D. Nelson said he expects to have a resolution for the council at its March 24 meeting.

The screens will be mounted on the back wall of council chambers and will be able to easily connect to the iPads that all council members have.

Mr. Pinkerton said the system will enable councilors who are out of town to participate in council meetings with video-conferencing software and will also facilitate presentations in the council chambers.

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 allows teleconferencing, but requires that if the council plans to use the technology, it must be noted on the agenda.

Mr. Pinkerton said the council also will have to announce ahead of time where the out-of-town councilor will be so that any member of the public could join them at that location instead of at City Hall. 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, he 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. Daniel E. Skamperle plans to vote against it.

“I don’t want to spend the money,” Mr. Skamperle said. “I don’t see it as a pressing issue.” Still, he said that if the council is going to move forward with the plan, the Apple TV system would be better than buying a more expensive projector.

City Planning and Development Director Andrea L. Smith said she feels the council needs the technology because it is borrowing equipment from Parks and Recreation and the Planning Department whenever it has Powerpoint presentations and members can’t attend by teleconference.

Mr. Nelson believes the council could have the system live within a month.

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