Council Meeting Software Upgraded

Since 2012, Cobourg has used software from iCompass to  organize council meetings and Town documents such as by-laws and minutes but new software from eSCRIBE will be used starting 26 October.  This has advantages in staff efficiencies and accuracy (see list of advantages below) but although the basic cost is lower by about $2K, when additional features are added, the cost increases from $11.6K per year to $19.6K per year.  In Brent’s recommendation to Council on 27 July, he listed 11 steps to create an Agenda with iCompass versus 5 for eSCRIBE.  Minutes are also quicker to prepare. All existing files – including bylaws back to 1972 – will be transferred to the new system and existing links to the iCompass files in web sites such as Cobourg News blog will be re-directed to eSCRIBE.

At the July 27 Council meeting, a motion was passed that authorized purchase of eSCRIBE’s “Transparency bundle” plus additional modules “Webcasting Plus”, “Board Management”  and “Public Comments and Delegation Request Management”.  The Transparency bundle includes modules for meeting management, report management, a participant portal, Internet publishing, and Webcasting.

The total cost will be:

  • To end of 2020: $10,941.66
  • 2021: $19,570
  • 2022: $20,571

Advantages

  • Less work to prepare Council meeting Agendas and Minutes
  • More accuracy and accountability with version control for reports and an audit trail of what was changed, by whom and when.
  • Lower cost for basic functionality
  • More features available
  • More flexible and suited to hybrid meetings – virtual and in-person mix.
  • Uses Town web site for storage instead of external sites (iCompass and You-Tube)
  • A single calendar for meetings
  • Better management of boards and their membership – especially useful for Advisory committees.
  • Integrated management of delegation requests
  • Enhanced public comments management such as for the Open Forum Section of the Committee of the Whole meetings.

The new system is in soft launch and partially operating with agendas, although not other items.  Go here.  For comparison, go to the existing iCompass portal.

I look forward to improved and reliable webcasting of Council meetings – this is especially important in the Covid-19 era which looks to be with us for some time yet.

Links

Addendum – 13 October 2020

Based on my experience at the Council meeting on 13 October, I can report that although escribe is supposed to livestream the same as was done with You-Tube, it’s not the same. First, you need to click the link on the escribe agenda – there was nothing on the Town’s You-Tube channel. I suspect the public audience was much reduced. Second, you cannot pause and go back on the video while it’s livestreaming – all you can do is stop and restart. Third, in Tuesday’s session, at about the 1 hour mark, the streaming froze and I had to start a new session at the original “click here for streaming video” link. This meant I missed perhaps 5 minutes. Hopefully the bug will be fixed next meeting.  The video is only available after the meeting and then you can select which part you want to play.

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2 Comments
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Gerinator
8 October 2020 7:20 am

I certainly appreciate the information, in particular the financial info, contained in Brent’s Report. Based on my quick read of the Report all that is missing is a simple financial benefits statement. The Report identifies there are fewer ‘steps’ associated with eScribe, so what is the problem with identifying estimated $ values for the saved effort? My read is that the net benefit is probably positive but it would be helpful if the ‘culture’ would included this type of assessment.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Gerinator
8 October 2020 8:14 am

I suspect that this particular change is financially justified. However, providing an accurate cost/benefit summary for eScribe would set a precedent that would make it difficult to gain approval for numerous other, unjustifiable, projects. We might even use our existing water meters rather than wasting $2.4M for replacements!

Last edited 11 days ago by Ken Strauss