By Bob Uphues
The village of Brookfield is expected to roll out new computer software that will enable to it to provide the public and elected officials with village board meeting agendas and packets sooner and eventually allow for televising and archiving videos of municipal meetings.
While the agenda management software will make village staff's jobs easier, a real benefit to the public will be the software's ability to integrate video, which will allow the village board and any advisory commission to livestream and record their meetings.
It has been perhaps a decade or more since the village of Brookfield has televised its Board of Trustees meetings in any capacity. In the early 2000s, a simple camera mounted to the ceiling of the council chamber recorded meetings, which were broadcast at a later time on a cable access channel.
Video technology since then has made it easier than ever for local governments to increase transparency by livestreaming and archiving village board and commission meetings.
The preliminary 2021 village operating budget includes a $50,000 line item to purchase software and install cameras in the council chamber to allow meetings to be livestreamed and archived.
Trustees are expected to approve the expense and Village Manager Timothy Wiberg told the Landmark he would soon seek requests for proposals for the camera system and installation.
The system should be operational, Wiberg said, by the end of March 2021.
Brookfield Village Hall's council chamber already has received a sound system upgrade and would be integrated into the video system. Wiberg said four small high-definition video cameras with pan/tilt/zoom capability will be mounted to the ceiling of the council chamber.
During meetings, the system will be operated by someone via a touchscreen. People will be able to watch the meeting live on the village's website or watch a recording later. The video will be synched up to the village board meeting packet, allowing people to click on an agenda item and link directly to the board's discussion of that item.
Software eases agenda assembly
Assistant Village Manager George Issakoo told the Landmark that the hope is to have the new agenda management software up and running prior to the village board's next meeting on Nov. 23, though it's possible the launch could be delayed until December.
While the public won't notice too much of a difference when it comes to accessing and paging through an online village board meeting packet. But, the software, produced by a firm called iCompass, will noticeably improve staff's ability to prepare meeting packets.
"It's much more streamlined," Issakoo said of the software's capabilities for creating meeting packets.
The software allows agenda memos and documents to be managed in one location and accessed by department heads and village administrators, who can enter notes and questions electronically, replacing the current cumbersome system of multiple emails and phone calls.
Issakoo said the village purchased the iCompass software in August for $9,250 after reviewing proposals from a handful of firms. That annual fee included implementation this year and in future years will include unlimited technical support and access to training videos and documents as well as software updates. Staff began implementing the software package in September and in October trained staff on how to use it.
The next step is training elected officials how to use the back-end of the agenda software, which is where confidential documents, such as those related to executive session, will be stored. The public will not have access to that end of the system.
Because of the effort it takes to produce a village board meeting packet, they are typically not available to anyone, including elected officials, until the end of business on the Friday before meetings.
By streamlining the process, said Issakoo, both the village board and the public, should be able to access packets sooner.
The public got its first glimpse of the new software system during a presentation by Management Analyst Kathryn Angell at the village board's Nov. 9 committee of the whole meeting.
In addition to the agenda management software, the village purchased a Public Request Tracker module for an annual fee of $400.
According to Angell, "This tracker allows residents to submit their FOIA requests and staff can reply with the request material through the portal."