Wright County commissioners ready to stream meetings

For the most part, if there were topics of interest to Wright County residents that were going to be discussed at the Wright County Board of Commissioners they had to attend the meetings in Buffalo or wait a couple of days to watch the meeting on cable access television.
At the Oct. 15 meeting of the Wright County Board, the commissioners were informed that they’re close to having their meetings carried live on the Internet.
Information Technology Director Bill Swing said that the preparation for the board to go live with streaming of their board meetings on the county’s website is slated to begin Nov. 5. The board has been conducting meetings with trial runs of the live streaming the last few weeks and they’re ready to go live.
“We feel we’ve got a product we can move on,” Swing said. “What we’re looking at now are procedural matters. We’re doing a couple of test runs to make sure we have the bugs worked out and will be ready to launch Nov. 5.”
Commissioner Mark Daleiden has spearheaded the effort for the county to embrace available technology, which is far from what current viewing of county board meetings has done.
The board meetings are currently taped on VHS tapes and delivered to the Charter Communications office in Buffalo. It was the problems with Charter that prompted the change.
The county had been informed that they would have to record meetings on DVD and deliver them to St. Cloud for broadcast days later. That and the fact that Charter doesn’t have a cable TV monopoly prompted the move.
“Not every resident has Charter as their cable provider,” Daleiden said. “We’re not currently providing a service to the residents who have an interest in seeing a board meeting. This will allow anyone who is interested to watch the meetings live or whenever they choose to watch them.”
Swing said that technically the board meetings could already be airing on the county’s website, but that they’re fine-tuning elements like camera angles and how to start and stop the streaming when the board is on a break. He said those have been rectified and the county is ready to go live Nov. 5 and a change is long overdue.
“When you stick to the old ways too long, it creates a lot of hassle and takes more time and effort to accomplish,” Swing said. “The way of the future is the Internet and this is just in keeping with getting away from the old way of doing things.”
In other items on the Oct. 15 agenda, the board:
• Approved the September revenue/expenditure guidelines. Through 75 percent of the year, expenditures are at 74 percent of projections and revenues are at 68 percent.
• Set a second round of interviews for the two finalists for the county coordinator position. Interim County Coordinator Lee Kelly and former Wright County employee Pat Melvin will have their second interviews starting at 9 a.m. Friday, Oct. 25 in the county boardroom.
• Announced that the board will conduct a committee of the whole meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 6 at the Corinna Township Hall. The topic to be discussed is the township’s wish to conduct its own shoreland zoning. In 2010, the county gave the township zoning authority, but retained the power to have shoreland zoning authority. The township has requested that authority be turned over the last three years, but the county has yet to officially turn over those rights.
• Approved a contract for repairs on County Ditch 10 to Blackstone Construction in the amount of $148,558. The estimate for the repairs was around $100,000, but the amount of blockage on the ditch and the need to remove numerous trees growing in the ditch line resulted in significantly higher bids than originally estimated.
• Referred discussion of a compensation study to the negotiation committee of the whole. Two years ago, the county conducted a job classification study that didn’t include a follow-up compensations study. At the request of Board Chairman Pat Sawatzke, the meeting will be conducted  in closed session with labor attorney Frank Madden in attendance to provide guidance to the county board about the potential ramifications of a compensation study.
• Approved revisions to the county’s personnel policy to include recently approved language dealing with employees who are subject to being able to use flex time.
• Authorized payment of the $1,671 to the firm of Madden, Galenteer & Hansen, the county’s union negotiation counsel, for labor relations services conducted in September.
• Approved a summary of fact and findings on the exact location of County Ditch 38 and the benefitted landowners who live along the ditch. The county ditch system has been in place for more than 100 years and the ditches are often adjusted due to growth along the system and, as part of the county’s updated ditch database, such summaries are being compiled to confirm exact locations and those benefitted by the ditch.

Freelancer John Holler covers government and the Wright County Board of Commissioners.