When the North Riverside Village Board passed its 2020-21 fiscal year budget last month, two line items struck from the document were funding for a redesign of the village’s website and the purchase of cameras that would allow the village to record and post videos of village board meetings.
But, both of those initiatives are moving forward now after Village Administrator Sue Scarpiniti told trustees that she’s got preliminary approval of a funding source through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which was signed into law by President Donald Trump in March in response to the nationwide COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Scarpiniti, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which manages federal CARES Act funding has given her at least verbal approval to use those funds to cover 75 percent of the cost to overhaul the North Riverside village website.
“The village has difficulty communicating COVID-19 information to the community in an effective manner through our website,” said Scarpiniti, explaining the reason why the project qualifies for such funding.
Scarpiniti said she was optimistic Cook County’s supplemental CARES Act funding would pay for the remaining 25 percent of the cost for the website redesign.
The village earlier this year sought proposals for web design services and received submission from four firms. The cost for those services ranges in price from about $30,000 to about $75,000, according to Scarpiniti.
Next month Scarpiniti wants to arrange for each firm to formally present their proposals to the village board during a meeting of the board’s administrative committee via Zoom. The village board could then compare services and design options and choose a preferred vendor.
Upgrading the website would allow the village to make video recordings of village board meetings, or any meeting that takes place inside the council chamber, available to the public for the first time.
Scarpiniti told the Landmark she has already ordered two cameras, at a cost of about $5,000. The cameras – it’s unclear whether one will be sufficient – will be mounted on the ceiling of the council chamber. The room is already equipped with the IT infrastructure needed to hook up the cameras and compatible sound equipment.
While the production values of such a setup will be limited – nothing like the two-camera, quasi-professional cable TV operation of the Riverside Cable Commission – it will at least make meetings easily available to the public.
To start with, meeting videos will be uploaded after the fact, but the future goal, said Scarpiniti would be to livestream meetings. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the North Riverside Village Board has made meetings available to the public via Zoom.
The present North Riverside website, said Scarpiniti, can’t accommodate large video files, so the new website will be the first step in making video available.
More recently, a village staff member has used an iPad to provide live Zoom video of the meeting in progress. Scarpiniti said the village could continue to do that in the absence of a better livestream option.
“The village has so much work to do infrastructure-wise, I’d like to get the ability for people to watch meetings on their own time first – we’ll still offer Zoom – until there’s a good solution we can focus on,” Scarpiniti said.
Scarpiniti said the goal was to get the new website and the video camera system up and running by Jan. 1.