Council discusses videoconferencing in meetings

Cedar Park City Council on May 8 discussed how to address legal requirements and technical challenges that would impede City Council members from joining special-called meetings remotely by video.

Place 3 Councilman Lyle Grimes said he supports Cedar Park pursuing the idea once the city has an estimate for equipment costs. Place 5 Councilman Jon Lux said City Council may want to wait until another government tries the method first.

"Being on the leading edge is always expensive," Lux said.

Assistant City Manager Josh Selleck said that if City Council wants to explore the concept, city staffers recommend the city determine the cost of equipment that also complies with requirements from the Texas Department of Information Resources, which oversees management of state and local governments' information and communications technologies. He said staffers also recommend City Council work with an attorney to create rules and protocols for videoconferencing in meetings.

Two Texas Legislature bills passed last year—House Bill 2414 and Senate Bill 984—regulate videoconferencing in meetings that are subject to open-records law, such as City Council. The bills are in some ways inconsistent, yet a city council needs to comply with both sets of rules, Selleck said.

City staffers researched how other governing board members meet electronically, such as the Pedernales Electric Cooperative. But PEC's directors can call in by phone and not video, and the board is not subject to the Texas Open Meetings Act, Selleck said.

In accordance with both state laws, a meeting that some city council members attend by video must have a primary meeting location in the state where members are physically present to form a quorum. Selleck said organizers must ensure the site is open to the public. At the meeting, members of the public must be able to join in and be seen and heard on the video feed as easily as City Council members, he said.

City staffers discussed technical challenges with the Texas Municipal League, Selleck said. The city must keep the video streaming during the entire meeting to ensure compliance with both state laws. A lost video connection would force City Council to recess for up to six hours until the link is restored. Without a restored connection the meeting would be have to be adjourned, he said.

Selleck said City Council also needs to establish meeting protocols to address the possibilities of video feed lag and crosstalk.

Mayor Matt Powell said he has enjoyed using video to attend classes. Video helps an offsite participant communicate by hearing as well as seeing other attenders, he said.

"I would like to see us proceed with getting a cost estimate on it," Powell said. "But I would encourage the staff to be creative with this."

By Stephen Burnett
Stephen Burnett has been a community journalist since 2005. He joined Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter in November 2013. For the cities of Cedar Park, Leander and northwest Austin, he covers city and county government, business, development, events, transportation, utilities and more.


Proposed mixed-use development Gateway 29 is located on the corner of Ronald Reagan Boulevard and State Highway 29 in Leander. (Screenshot courtesy city of Leander)
Mixed-use development proposed at Hwy. 29, Ronald Reagan Boulevard in Leander

Leander City Council approved the first reading of the development's zoning change in a 4-3 vote.

Coronavirus vaccines
Half of Williamson County’s population now vaccinated

Williamson County has crossed an important threshold in the quest to reach effective herd immunity.

Leander ISD names Rouse principal as area superintendent replacement

Christine Simpson became Rouse High School's principal in 2016 and will start as an area superintendent this summer.

Volunteers of Austin Vaccine Angels gathered after becoming fully vaccinated. (Courtesy Jodi Holzband)
Grassroots groups aimed at vaccine outreach look toward the future

For the past five months, grassroots volunteer groups have been working to connect thousands of Central Texans to COVID-19 vaccines.

Leander ISD admin building
Leander ISD board passes $387M budget with 2% raises, new campus staffing

The budget includes 2% midpoint staff raises, campus positions for Tarvin Elementary opening in August, start-up positions for Elementary School No. 29 opening in 2022 and other district expenditures.

Washington Prime Group Inc. owns six area shopping centers, including The Arboretum. (Courtesy The Arboretum)
Owner of Austin-area shopping centers files for bankruptcy; entertainment complex coming to Cedar Park and more top area news

Read the top business and community news from the past week from the Central Texas area.

Leander ISD is expected to add over 12,000 students in 10 years to its current population of 40,761 students. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Committee suggests $933M bond project list to Leander ISD board

The $933.4 million reccomendation includes elementary school, middle school, high school and districtwide projects.

Leander Bryson farmstead
Leander to create plan to preserve Historic Bryson Farmstead

The city plans to improve the historic Leander property for public use.

The Bloomhouse—an 1,100-square-foot home in the hills of West Austin—was built in the 1970s by University of Texas architecture students for fellow student Dalton Bloom. It was featured in the Austin Weird Homes Tour of 2020. (Brian Perdue/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin Weird Homes Tour ends; Z’Tejas to close Arboretum restaurant and more Central Texas news

Read the latest business and community news from the Central Texas area.

Leander homes
Cedar Park, Leander average home prices in May jump at least 40% from 2020

The average home price in Cedar Park was $563,335—a 56.2% year-over-year increase from May 2020.

Z’Tejas to close Arboretum restaurant, open new Avery Ranch spot in fall

The last day of service at Z'Tejas in the Arboretum is July 2.