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Cortez council considers buying search software for agendas

Program would make agendas, minutes searchable
The council chambers at Cortez City Hall.

At a workshop on Tuesday, the Cortez City Council discussed purchasing new software designed to make meeting minutes and agendas more accessible to the public.

City Manager Shane Hale said he has been researching Open Media Foundation, a Colorado-based nonprofit that creates software to make city meeting records searchable by topic. Open Media’s executive director, Tony Shawcross, spoke to the council through video conference call about how the software works and how it’s been used by other town governments. It would cost about $3,000 per year, but Shawcross said Open Media usually provides matching grants to smaller governments.

“The goal is to help even small governments reach constituents where they are, on their smartphones, on their tablets,” he said.

Shawcross said Open Media’s software would make it possible for town residents to search all the agendas and minutes on the city website that deal with a particular topic, such as recreational marijuana or proposed medians on Main Street. Through a partnership with YouTube, the company has also made it possible on some government websites for viewers to jump straight to the section of a meeting’s video recording that deals with the topic.

Open Media’s current clients include the governments of Colorado cities Thornton and Boulder as well as towns in other states.

Council members questioned Shawcross about how other governments have used the software and how to make it most effective. When Mayor Pro Tem Ty Keel asked if other governments had seen more website traffic as a result of the service, Shawcross said it varies. Some towns have had marked increases in website traffic, he said, while others haven’t seen growth at all.

Hale said he was impressed with the software from the public perspective, based on what he saw on other government websites, but he and General Services Director Rick Smith planned to talk to staff members from towns that have used the service to find out what it’s like from their perspective.

“It may not be for us if it’s going to be a big drain on staff time,” he said.

Smith also mentioned he is exploring other companies that provide similar software, but most of them would be more expensive. Hale said he would continue researching the software and possibly bring a purchase bid before the council at a later meeting.

During the workshop, the council also heard a presentation from Cortez Library Director Eric Ikenouye and local artist Sonja Horoshko on the formation of a Public Art Committee. Ikenouye presented the group proposal and mission statement that he and several artists and interested citizens put together on July 19. Most council members said they thought the committee would benefit the city government, but they suggested a few changes to the current proposal, such as adding a student representative. Hale said the city would probably need to wait until budget time to vote the committee into existence, since the cost of most of its projects would have to come from the existing public art fund.

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