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Schaumburg meetings have not been must-see programming for residents

Eric Peterson, Daily Herald

A still from Schaumburg's streaming video footage of Tuesday's village board meeting shows Cook County Board Commissioner Tim Schneider honoring the village for being named Money Magazine's "Best Place to Live in Illinois" and Mayor Al Larson on his 30 years in office.

Schaumburg village officials make decisions affecting the lives of tens of thousands of residents and workers, but their actions are hardly the box-office draw of the fictional Avengers.

The first four months of a pilot program to stream live video of village board meetings has drawn few viewers. But that might not prevent village officials from making it a permanent practice.

"I believe we should continue with it," said Trustee Tom Dailly, who first proposed the idea last year. "The viewing is low, certainly, often lower than 20. But I think it shows people are comfortable with what the board is doing."

Before the six-month trial period began in early January, it was Dailly who proposed that viewership be strongly considered in deciding whether the cost of permanently streaming village board meetings was justified.

Now he believes other factors such as government transparency need to be taken into account as well.

In fact, if a camera is permanently installed in the board room, he wonders if it also should be used for plan commission and zoning board meetings.

Schaumburg Information Technology Director Peter Schaak said live viewership of village board meetings has been about 5 to 7 people, with views going up to about 40 within the first week of its airing. There have been very few additional views beyond the first few days after a meeting, he added.

Schaak said there has been nothing about the content of any particular meeting that has put its viewership above the rest, apart from the possible novelty value of the first meeting, which about 15 people watched live.

"I think, in general, our meetings are pretty low drama," he said.

Village Manager Brian Townsend said he and fellow staff members have been underwhelmed by the audience size, but aware that view counts might not be the most important factor in the village board's decision whether to continue.

The current trial period incurred no upfront cost due to the borrowing of an existing village camera, a decision to continue streaming the meetings would likely result in a recommendation to buy a new camera that would be permanently installed in the board room.

A camera is estimated to cost about $7,000, but buying one would eliminate the time and expense involved in setting the current camera up and taking it down for every meeting, Townsend said.

The expense does not affect Dailly's own recommendation to his fellow trustees to carry on.

"I'm perfectly comfortable with that cost," he said.

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