After nearly a year of discussion the Spokane Valley City Council took a decisive step forward Tuesday, agreeing to have staff prepare a motion authorizing the purchase of equipment so the city can produce its own broadcast recording of each council meeting.
The council has the option of continuing to contract with Community Minded Television to record meetings and air them on Comcast Channel 14 a week later. The city has recently had some problems with replays not starting on time and CMT has had issues accommodating extremely long meetings, said technology specialist Greg Bingaman. “We are just one show on Channel 14,” he said. “We do lose a substantial amount of control.”
Councilman Dean Grafos asked for details on Spokane’s Channel 5 setup. “What is it going to cost if we just duplicate what they have?” he said.
The city of Spokane has about $250,000 worth of equipment. “We wouldn’t be anywhere near that much,” Bingaman said. If the city chooses to purchase equipment it can use the so-called “PEG funding” from Comcast that can be used to support public, education and government access programming in addition to broadcasting equipment. The hardware would cost $55,000, plus an additional $10,000 for installation.
After those one time start up costs the city would be responsible for about $600 a month in contract labor costs. It would cost an estimated $28,000 a year compared to $36,000 a year for the Community Minded Television option. “The real advantage is the labor savings,” he said.
Recordings of meetings would be available immediately and could be shown on Channel 5 as well as Channel 14. The city can also choose to have a video on demand site on the Internet that would allow people to view meetings at any time for an additional $7,700 a year. If the city wants to stream meetings live on the Internet it would only require an additional $3,600 in equipment, Bingaman said.
Grafos asked what the city would need to do to broadcast live on cable. “The only way we can broadcast live on cable is to have our own Channel 5,” Bingaman said. It would require the city to essentially create its own channel and fill the airtime. Only Spokane Valley residents would receive it.
If the city goes with that option it could still broadcast meetings and other items from the city of Spokane’s channel, including Spokane County Commissioner meetings, Bingaman said. “We would have to find a way to fill that up,” he said. “Getting set up, the content might be kind of thin.” Creating a city channel would also require the city to pay for an estimated 10 hours of contracted labor per week, Bingaman said. That expense would easily run into the thousands of dollars.
Councilman Bill Gothmann said he favored buying equipment and airing meetings on Channel 14, Channel 5 and the Internet. “As long as we can broadcast it live over the Internet, why not?” he said. “I think having our own city Channel 5 is reaching right now.”
Purchasing equipment gives the city a full range of options, Bingaman said, and the council can pick and choose from its broadcasting options. “I think that is the most cost effective,” he said.
In other business, the council discussed recommendations from the Planning Commission on changes to be made to the Sprague/Appleway Revitalization Plan. Businesses are currently required to conform to the new regulations if a remodel or addition exceeds 50 percent of the value of the building and land. The commission recommended changing that threshold to 80 percent.
A second recommendation was to allow existing family homes in the mixed-use avenue zone to continue as an allowed use so they are not labeled nonconforming. “This would apply to existing homes, not new,” said associate planner Micki Harnois. The community development director would also be allowed to establish a “reasonable” setback if there is a conflict between setback requirement and existing easements.
Language referring to prelocated streets that “shall be constructed in the locations shown” would be changed to refer to “potential” streets with the exact location to be determined at the time of development. “This language would have flexibility,” Harnois said. The commission also recommended that an entire section dealing with maximum block size be deleted and a new section added that says maximum intersection spacing for local access streets would be set at 660 feet.
The council directed staff to move forward with preparing an ordinance with the Planning Commission’s recommendations.