Gurney's Inn
January 03, 2007

Town Takes On New Technology

A new day is dawning in the Town of Southampton.

Any resident who has watched a recent televised town board meeting will be able to bear testament to the higher quality production values and enhanced camera techniques used in filming the procedures.

And that's not all. Soon, those interested in learning the entire history of a resolution, as well as viewing all public hearings, will have the information available at the click of a mouse in the comfort of their own homes.

"It's really cutting edge in terms of open government," said Southampton Town Supervisor Skip Heaney.

At a recent work session, the town board viewed demonstrations by representatives of both SEA-TV, who showed how a viewer could access town board meetings from the town's website, and by Daryl Blowes and Rick McElroy of Compusolve, who walked the board through a step-by-step review of how the new Minute Traq/Media Traq technology would enable residents to access information in seconds from their computers.

"It's all about making town government more accessible," said Southampton Town Clerk Sundy Schermeyer.

According to Blowes, who helped to develop the cutting-edge software, all a resident needs to do is to click on an agenda and they'll be able to access all related minutes, resolutions, votes and public hearings, with text synchronized with a stream of audio and video. Notices to bidders can be accessed as well, and documents are indexed for easy retrieval.

The system allows for accuracy and a clear timeline when researching a legislative act or town board decision going back up to 15 years.

"There will be no more reconstruction of history," said Heaney.

Blowes said the new technology "brings everything together."

As for SEA-TV's new system of recording town board meetings, Heaney said the technique is "terrific."

Instead of having one camera revolve around the room as was done in years past, the new procedure allows for approximately 16 pre-indexed camera positions; cameras can turn directly to whomever is speaking. "Virtually every inch of the room can be covered," said Heaney. In addition, town board meetings can be viewed in real time from any computer in the world.

SEA-TV representatives also talked about future programming, including additional opportunities for separation of educational and town hall type programming.

As for the new Internet accessibility available to Southampton Town residents, most facets of the program are expected to be available beginning in January. Heaney and Blowes agreed that the computer software is not only the first of its kind in any municipality in the area, but the first out of all the 932 towns in the state to utilize the forward-thinking technology.

In addition, the move allows for increased transparency and greater public participation in the process. Heaney said that to his knowledge there is no other local government on the island that is using this technology.

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