Company offers live Internet broadcast of commission meetings

James HowellStaff

September 20, 2012

The Ashe County public may soon have the ability to instantly access all county government activity through the Internet, thanks to a software company called Granicus, which presented their business to the commissioners on Monday.

“I like Granicus because it seems to simplify the problems that we are having in Ashe County,” said Cyrus Hurley, director of information technology for the county.

Jack Melnicoff, a representative for Granicus, presented information on the company’s behalf at Monday’s county commission meeting.

Melnicoff said, “Granicus allows you to better engage your citizens by granting them instant access to county government information over the Internet.” Melnicoff said this is important because “we are in an era of on-demand information.”

Granicus will create a shared website with the county, which Granicus’ employees will update in exchange for a fee.

With Granicus, county government meetings will be streamed live on the county’s website. Those meetings, along with the county government’s agendas, minutes, and ordinances, will be stored in the website;s archives, making them available for view at any time, according to Melnicoff.

To make it even more accessible for the public, the county’s website would resemble a search engine where a citizen can find any topic by typing in a keyword and running a search.

According to Melnicoff, many organizations have turned to Granicus because they are having budgeting problems and Granicus offers cost-effective solutions.

For instance, some organizations have adopted Granicus because this software allows an organization to be paperless, providing instant savings on paper, said Melnicoff.

“We’ve looked to other groups for help, and the competition only offered solutions in one area but not another; no one else offers a complete package like Granicus does,” said Hurley.

According to Hurley’s estimations, installing Granicus’ shared infrastructure will pay for itself in 26 months. This calculation is based on the savings Granicus will provide in paper and in staff hours, among other things.

Granicus will have two different costs. The first cost will be a one-time installation fee of $17,275, which will be used to build a shared on-line infrastructure between Granicus and the Ashe County government.

The second cost will be a monthly fee of $1,579 to keep Granicus as a service. This fee will be in exchange for Granicus’ employees continually updating the shared website.

Upgrading the county’s data from analog to digital will cost $25,191, although, this expense is not being paid to Granicus. According to Hurley, this transition has been needed for a while and it will free up more space in the courthouse’s audio/visual room.

Since its founding in 1999, Granicus has worked for over 1,000 municipalities, including the cities of Los Angeles and Indianapolis, as well as the Tennessee state legislature. Granicus has also serviced North Carolina organizations at Durham, Chapel Hill and Wake Forest.

During the presentation, Melnicoff said Granicus retains 99.8 percent of its clients, and that 98.3 percent of its clients would refer Granicus to other municipalities.

Also, Granicus’ data center has an SSAE 16 accreditation, which is the highest security ranking offered by the Auditing Standards Board (ASB) and the American Institute of Certified Public Accounts (AICPA).

This was only a presentation, so no actions were taken by the commissioners toward adopting Granicus as a service.

Other items addressed at Monday’s meeting included:

• County Emergency Management Coordinator Patty Gambill presented the board with pre-disaster removal and management contracts, which would be used to remove debris from the county after an emergency. The board approved this 5-0.

• Tax Administrator Keith Little requested pro-rating Charles Kilby’s solid waste disposal fee, which the board voted against 5-0.

• Jeff Dreyer, chairman of the Ashe County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, presented tourism statistics to the commissioners, including the county’s 5.5 percent increase in the tourism industry.

• Glenda Luther, from the Ashe County Volunteer Initiative Program, presented information about an inaugural Volunteer Fair on Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2-6 p.m., at Family Central, for which 21 agencies have already reserved booths.