Access to city council meetings soon could be only a click away for Bexley residents.

Access to city council meetings soon could be only a click away for Bexley residents.

Mayor Ben Kessler has suggested city council consider purchasing a system called "Granicus" that would significantly update the city's technological capabilities.

"We're looking at Granicus to enhance our online posting of agendas, minutes, and other related documents," Kessler said. "It will also provide video streaming and video minutes of council meetings so that residents can have full access to council's decision-making process."

He said the system would also enable the city to archive mayor's court proceedings.

"We first started looking at this product when we were researching ways to provide video minutes of council meetings," Kessler said. " In 2011, the budget for council and commission, board, and committee minutes was lowered, with a directive by city council to find more affordable solutions."

When Kessler chaired the Land Use Strategy Commission, he recorded audio minutes of meetings and transcribed them himself in order to save on overtime costs. But he realized that wasn't a realistic option for most city meetings, and he started looking for an alternative.

"The act of transcription can be very time-consuming," Kessler said. "Software-based transcription of audio isn't currently an option" because of technological limitations, he said. "So we started looking at video options."

After researching a variety of vendors, Kessler said Granicus emerged.

"Granicus integrates video with meeting minutes, allowing users to quickly access the portion of the meeting they are interested in viewing and listening to," Kessler said. "And crucially, it is platform agnostic, allowing viewing on a variety of mobile devices and operating systems."

Most importantly, Kessler said, Granicus would give residents live access to council meetings without leaving their homes.

"Granicus allows for the streaming of council meetings, so I could see a lot of interesting dynamics that could arise," he said. " For example, I know several residents who have had to pay for babysitters to attend council meetings. I'm sure they would be interested in being able to stream the meeting from home, especially if there was an interactive element added to our setup.

"I'd like to set up a Twitter account and keep it monitored during council meetings, enabling residents … to post comments. …The prospect of more interactive council meetings is intriguing."

Kessler said Granicus is more than just video minutes.

"This platform allows for complete document management of meeting agendas, minutes, and supporting documents," he said. "This is a big deal for Bexley, because our current online document management system is relatively difficult to publish to and for the public it's not especially user-friendly to navigate. … In contrast, Granicus provides a more user-friendly document management system that is tailored to our sort of use."

He said another important factor is being able to internally archive mayor's court proceedings.

"This has been a wish of our mayor's court magistrate for some time, but we haven't had the infrastructure to support it," he said.

If council decides to purchase Granicus, Kessler said, it would be purchasing a community asset.

"This means that any other organization in the community can use the service and the cost of that use is covered by our monthly fee," he said. "So, for example, the Bexley Board of Education could also use this service for their public meetings under our license. I think once other organizations in the community see how well integrated this solution is, they will have some interest in participating."

Kessler said he has been conducting a cost-benefit analysis and negotiating with the company for a lower rate.

He said the cost would not be entirely covered by overtime savings, but considering the amount to invested through the mayor's court budget for a similar solution, "the system will more than pay for itself."

He noted the additional benefits of freeing up staff time and giving residents more convenient access to city meetings.

Kessler said he hopes city council will move forward with the project in the next 60 days.

The original estimate from Granicus was $13,350 in upfront cost and $860 in monthly fees. We're currently talking about a discount of about 20 percent on both upfront and monthly costs, but I'm still working on seeing if I can't achieve some more savings," Kessler said.

City Council President Rick Weber said he will encourage fellow council members to support the Granicus purchase.

"I have been exploring the Granicus site and finding hundreds of communities that make their agendas, meetings, and minutes readily and easily available," he said. "We owe this accessibility to our residents."

For more information on the service visit www.granicus.com.