Council members express concerns with costs, management of content and lengthened meetings

New Castle County councilman Bob Weiner, 2nd District, officially tabled his request to stream and broadcast all council meetings and hearings at the Tuesday, Jan. 14 council meeting.

Weiner said that his decision was largely based on feedback from other council members, particularly their concerns with the financial burden the ordinance could create.

Council member Janet Kilpatrick, 3rd District, said that none of the financial concerns were addressed in Weiner’s initial proposal, and that she was not comfortable signing off on the bill without knowing its impact on taxpayers.

“It’s tremendously irresponsible to even think about voting on something until we know what the comprehensive cost is going to be,” Kilpatrick said.

Kilpatrick said that details regarding the responsibility for the equipment, as well as who would ultimately be in charge of the raw recordings, needed to be outlined before she could approve the bill.

She was also concerned that people could use the broadcasts as an opportunity to filibuster.

Council President Chris Bullock echoed Kilpatrick’s sentiments, adding that he was particularly concerned with council members using the broadcasts as a soapbox and increasing the length of the meetings.

“Sometimes when the lights go on and the cameras show up … folks tend to talk more than what is necessary,” Bullock said.

Director of Communication and Policy for Wilmington City Council John Rago said that, while the city would be willing to discuss how they could assist with the project, city administration would prefer that the county council had made its decision first.

Rago added that the city already has its own production company in place, with equipment and employees already working to broadcast the city council meetings.

That same equipment could be used for county council’s needs as well, Rago said, but nothing has been officially explored to that extent.

“We haven’t discussed any details yet,” Rago said. “Once the county decides which way it would like to go, we would be happy to talk to them. There are probably going to be some preliminary discussions prior to that, but there haven’t been so far.”

Weiner said that, in his preliminary investigations, the cost to broadcast all of the council’s committee meetings and monthly meetings could be between $25,000 and $50,000 annually, with the figure likely coming in on the lower end.

Weiner said that those funds would come from the county’s coffers, although the specific fund has not been determined.

Weiner said his next step was to confirm the details expressed by his fellow council members, including the inclusion of a financial note.

“(Their) suggestions, I felt, were worthy of consideration and possibly implementation,” Weiner said of the feedback he’d received from fellow council members.