BANGOR – Live from City Hall, it’s Monday night!
Although there are still a few kinks to work out, this week’s City Council meeting for the first time went out live throughout the city on Adelphia cable Channel 7, the city’s governmental channel.
City officials have high hopes for the live programming, which for now will be limited to the City Council meetings every other Monday beginning at 7:30 p.m.
“I think for a lot of people, paying their taxes and seeing the snow plow go by are all they see of city operations,” Assistant City Manager Robert Farrar said Thursday. “This channel can be a great tool for us to reach out and provide them with information.”
Additional meetings and events eventually will be shown on the channel, according to city staff. The city already broadcasts videotaped meetings or presentations on occasion.
The new service is funded with about $30,000 in fees paid to the city through Adelphia – the fourth is a series of cable franchises in the area.
Bangor is part of the Penobscot-Downeast Cable Consortium, a group comprising 15 communities including Orono, Old Town and Belfast in eastern Maine. Other communites are expected to begin programming in coming months.
Under the consortium agreement, officials in each community control the programming schedule, so the communities can air different programs at any given time on their respective government channels. For instance, Brewer and Bangor could air their meetings simultaneously with viewers in each city seeing their local proceedings.
At Bangor City Hall, most of the high-tech equipment – including several remote-controlled video cameras, a computer and sound equipment – is in place within the council chambers. City staff can adjust the cameras from an adjacent office outfitted with several video monitors and video recorders.
The neighboring town of Glenburn also has begun live airings of its council meetings as well as meetings of the school committee, planning board and zoning board of appeals.
Recently hired Glenburn Town Manager Carl Betterley is no stranger to live teleision.
Manager for two decades in the Cumberland County town of Scarborough, Betterley said the live broadcasts of that town’s meetings were well received.
“Sometimes with a lengthy meeting, we’d have people drive down after watching it on television to comment on an issue,” Betterley said. “People are watching.”
Bangor City Councilor Michael Crowley said, with so many potential viewers, the nine-member panel would have to be diligent in better explaining issues before taking action.
“We have to stay away from the slang that is basically meaningless to people who don’t see it on a regular basis,” said Crowley, calling the live meetings a valuable opportunity for the council to connect with the public.
“Basically, it comes down to giving the taxpayers of Bangor a better opportunity to see what we do and how we spend their tax money,” he added.
City Councilor and newly elected state Rep. Patricia Blanchette said she also believed the programming would benefit the community. However, she said the live feed might require an adjustment in her often outspoken style.
“I’m going to have to clean up my act now,” quipped Blanchette.