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Commissioners go live, strengthen community signal

At the June 22 meeting of the Kitsap County commissioners, South Kitsap Commissioner Charlotte Garrido may very well open the meeting with “Live, from Port Orchard, it’s Monday night!”

After several years of tape-delayed meetings, the live broadcast of commissioner meetings was all set for a June 8 debut.

Technicians ran a series of tests, working to connect the council chambers in Port Orchard with the Bremerton Kitsap Access Television (BKAT) studio near the Fairgrounds.

They developed connections to the county’s fiber-optic network and the two cable providers that serve the target area.

Except it didn’t happen as planned.

A last-minute test connected the video, but without any sound. The information services department then pulled the plug on the broadcast, returning to the tape delay format just one more time.

BKAT has taped commissioner meetings for several years. The public access network also broadcasts a full meeting schedule for a variety of local governing boards, with programs repeated throughout the week.

Most are shown on tape delay, although the Bremerton and Poulsbo city councils are shown live.

“With a live broadcast, people get a lot more involved,” said BKAT Production Coordinator John Rauch. “There are some who watch council meetings at home, and when something comes on that they are interested in they just drive on down to city hall.”

After years of meeting on Monday morning, the county commissioners moved to an evening schedule in late 2007.

This has increased public attendance and participation.

“The quality of the signal was great,” said systems engineer George Geyer, “but someone unplugged the connections and we had to postpone going live until we fixed the problem.”

Geyer said going live isn’t going to be any more expensive than how it is done today because live camera coverage is necessary to tape the meeting for later broadcast.

Further, scheduled transmissions of the meetings will continue on a regular basis and DVD copies will still be sold for a small fee.

Geyer said live technology is only the beginning, as “there are many other applications” that will be available once the structure is in place. For example, department heads scheduled to make a presentation in front of the board can watch the proceedings in their office and arrive when they are about to begin.

“A lot of times the meetings are delayed and the staff sits around for an hour until it’s time for them to speak,” he said. “They waste a lot of time hanging around.”

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