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updated: 12/10/2012 11:55 PM

Arlington Hts. considers electronic agendas, live feed

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The Arlington Heights Village Board is considering options to make their meetings more environmentally friendly and transparent for the community.

On Monday the board heard from Robin Ward, assistant village attorney, and other village staff members who have been working on a proposal to switch to an electronic board packet and a new way of broadcasting meeting videos online.

Currently, only the agenda is available on the village website, not the full board packet with background information on each item.

The new system would allow the public to access the full packet online but also allow board members and staff members to login and make personal comments and notes on the packet, Ward said. Those notes would only be accessible to each individual board member.

The company the board is considering using, NovusAGENDA, would also live stream board meetings on the village website and index the video by agenda item, meaning that someone could click to watch a certain portion of the meeting instead of having to re-watch the entire video, Ward said.

As it is, not all meetings are recorded, and they are only rebroadcast on the village's cable channel, not online.

Officials said the electronic plan would save staff members time in preparing the packets each week. Village Manager Bill Dixon said packet preparation is "labor-intensive" and takes the work of several people from different departments many hours. About 20 packets are printed, copied and collated with packets often being longer than 200 pages worth of information.

Board members would be able to access the agendas on tablets or laptops during meetings, though several board members said they would be against using village money to pay for those tablets for elected officials.

There was some debate about how much actual cost savings there would be through this plan.

It would cost the village $12,000 a year to have NovusAGENDA prepare electronic packets, versus the $18,000 per year staff members estimated they spend in time, paper and printing costs. But, as Trustee Joseph Farwell pointed out, no positions would be eliminated, so the staff time will just be reallocated.

It will cost $60,000 a year to televise the board meetings, up from the $50,000 spent now. Staff members said all of the money in this electronic plan already fits into the IT department's budget and would not require any new funding sources and some board members said the cost would be worth it for the public.

"We all love the transparency part of it, and we can't wait to see it launched," Farwell said. "There are just some technology questions and other things we want worked out."

The board did not approve the plan on Monday but will discuss it again at a future meeting.

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