The Waxahachie City Council approved to hire a third-party outlet to take over the live streaming of city meetings during its Monday evening session.

The item passed 4-1 with Melissa Olson voting in opposition.

In early 2018, the council asked staff to begin live streaming council and planning and zoning meetings. Since then, city staff members have recorded the sessions using an iPad and external microphone and uploaded the videos to social media and Youtube.

Chelsey Gordon, an assistant to the city manager, said this model is no longer viable because the city staffers are not well versed in live streaming.

“No one here on city staff is an audio and visual professional and so we want to go ahead — and if we’re doing this live streaming initiative — we want to be as professional as we can be with our resources,” Gordon explained.

The third-party company, Swagit, is based out of Dallas and focuses on municipal meeting streaming. The company is already contracted to live stream for Ellis and Johnson Counties, as well as the cities of Burleson and Cleburne, to name a few.

“Swagit is a really well-known company, and this is what they do,” Gordon said. “They do this for a lot of other municipalities across the United States.”

Gordon noted the company will come in and install two cameras in the council chambers — one in front to view whoever is speaking to council and one in the back to view the council.

Swagit will then logon and watch every council and planning meeting as they happen and timestamp the agenda to coincide with the video stream. This will allow residents the opportunity to click on the item they want to hear and be taken straight to it in the video, Gordon added.

“We always say we want to hire the right person for the job,” Gordon said. “We don’t have anybody on staff that can currently do that.”

The initial cost is $44,896, which includes the installation. Every year after that is $18,420 and accounts for up to 50 live-streamed meetings and up to 120 hours of additional specialty content per year. Closed captioning can be added for an additional $1,000 per year, Gordon added.

Gordon said the annual costs would cover the standard amount of city council and planning meetings held throughout the year.

Olson said she could not support the item because of the costs it would bring to the city budget every year.

“You guys know I’m a big proponent of streaming, but the cost of this is just, I’ve been torn up about this item,” Olson explained.

Olson noted that the annual cost for the service would amount to about $360 per meeting, which isn’t a cost she can support.

“That’s just way too much in my mind,” she said. “I feel a lot more comfortable if we were to take the $18,000 and get a part-time person to do something like this and maybe help out Amy (Borders) or something like that. But this is just really expensive.”

Councilmember Chuck Beatty said if the council is going to continue with live streaming, it needs to be done professionally.

Mayor David Hill said he supports the live-streaming item and noted this is only the beginning.

Hill noted that city staff took several other estimates and this was the best option.

The council will meet again at 7 p.m. June 4 at the Council Chambers in City Hall.

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Samantha Douty, @SamanthaDouty

469-517-1451