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New System For Viewing Town Meetings Launched

Published: March 12, 2018 at 12:00 am

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Town Clerk Debbie Halstead and Town GIS Specialist Kevin Dunkin view an archived Board of Finance meeting from the municipal website using a desktop computer, tablet, and smart phone March 5 in the local IT Department offices. The current viewing…
Town Clerk Debbie Halstead and Town GIS Specialist Kevin Dunkin view an archived Board of Finance meeting from the municipal website using a desktop computer, tablet, and smart phone March 5 in the local IT Department offices. The current viewing system which requires specific software and an internet browser will be replaced on March 12 with a more user friendly viewing system that can be accessed from almost any device. (Bee Photo, Voket)
Town Clerk Debbie Aurelia Halstead, municipal IT Director Al Miles, and GIS Specialist Kevin Dunkin recently gathered to demonstrate a new system being launched that will enable residents and other interested parties to easily view archives of select local board and commission meetings anywhere and anytime on virtually any web-enabled viewing platform.

Mr Miles says the new system, which is scheduled to launch Monday, March 12, will utilize Adobe's Flash Player.

He told The Newtown Bee that the changeover to the Adobe application will make it quick and easy to load and view Board of Selectmen, Finance, and Education meetings, as well as Legislative Council sessions and virtually any other type of meeting or activity taking place in the Municipal Center Council Chambers.

That room is specially outfitted with multiple cameras, microphones, and processing technology that can capture what is happening in the room, and archive it for viewing a short time later through the newtown-ct.gov website portal.

"Debbie and I wanted to upgrade the ability for residents to get more involved with what government officials are doing by viewing meetings where important local decisions affecting the town and various groups are being made," Mr Miles said. "So we worked closely with Kevin to put this new viewing capability in place, and it's just about ready to launch."

"Now anyone with a web enabled smartphone, tablet, e-reader, laptop, or desktop computer will be able to watch local meetings and other activities," Ms Halstead added.

Wikipedia states that Adobe Flash Player is supported on Microsoft Windows, macOS, and Linux, and enables end-users to view Flash content using web browsers.

"If you already have Flash on your devices, beginning March 12, you can go to the town website, select the 'Minutes, Agendas, and Videos' tab and then either choose from municipal or Board of Education meetings. Select the date of the meeting you want to view, and it should load instantly and begin playing," Mr Miles said.

"Otherwise the site will link users to a Flash download for the device they are using," Mr Dunkin said. "It just takes about 30 seconds and you're up and running."

Mr Dunkin added that users can employ the meeting viewer on Internet Explorer, Chrome, Safari, Firefox, and the new Microsoft Edge browsers.

"These have all been tested, and it performs great on each browser," Ms Halstead assured.

Mr Miles said most mobile devices come equipped with the Flash application on board, as well as Apple iPads.

"It's not YouTube, and these videos are not accessible on YouTube, but the ease of use and viewing experience is similar to what people already familiar YouTube will get," he added.

"We're always looking for ways to further modernize our website, and to help more people learn about and engage with the town government, and many of our departments, boards, and commissions," Ms Halstead said.

Mr Miles said by around April 15, Mr Dunkin will have completed archiving two years of back meeting files rendered in Flash.

The main driver for this improvement, Mr Miles explained, was because up until March 12, visitors could only view meeting videos on an Internet Explorer browser, using what he described as the "outdated" plug-in Silverlight.

However, he said anyone who needs to view meeting videos going back more than two years will still need these two components until older files are eventually converted for Flash viewing.

As the interview closed, Mr Dunkin and Ms Halstead were simultaneously viewing webcasts of a recent Board of Finance meeting using a smartphone, a tablet, and a desktop computer to illustrate the diversity of devices that will be enabled so residents can catch up on the work of elected and appointed leaders, view budget and information sessions, and other select activities being conducted in the Council Chambers.

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This Week's Poll

Newtown Cultural Arts Commission is presenting or coordinating on six weeks of special events. Which event are you looking forward to the most? (Visit our Features page for a full story with details about all of these events.)

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“Courageous Conversations in A Complex World,” October 17
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Live at ETH: David Wax Museum concert, October 19
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Total votes: 2