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Robotic cameras eyed for council

Live camera operators may be phased out by the end of the year.

The Bainbridge City Council will soon be under the watchful eye of robots.

Stripping the council chambers of the five-foot tall cameras, cables and editing console that crowds city meetings, Bainbridge Island Broadcasting plans to install wall-mounted robotic cameras by the end of this year.

“We’re really excited,” said BIB Executive Director Scott Schmidt. “We think the city will embrace the new technology, because it will provide better coverage and communication with the community.”

The cameras could be controlled from a remote location, eliminating the need for multiple camera operators and the truck-load of equipment presently required for city meeting coverage.

The new cameras would be of a higher quality and would not need packing or transport.

The city could see savings as the paid staff required to operate equipment would be reduced, Schmidt said.

“It would be more comprehensive coverage and more economical for the city,” he said.

The robotic cameras would also free up BIB’s portable cameras for other community projects, he added.

BIB is reviewing proposals for camera systems and plans to make a formal pitch with cost estimates to the city by April.

City staff estimate the technological upgrades in the council chambers could cost around $250,000.

The robotic camera funding will likely come out of this pot, as will audio and lighting improvements, said city budget manager Ralph Eells.

Schmidt said other municipalities, such as King County, and local access stations have successfully replaced human-operated cameras with remote-control technology.

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