AUGUSTA — School board members are interested in moving some of their meetings into City Council chambers because it’d make for better television.

A major upgrade last year to the television production capabilities in council chambers at Augusta City Center brought remote-controlled cameras, improved audio and video systems, a dedicated laptop, document camera, flat-screen televisions for presentations and the ability to stream council meetings on the Internet.

None of that does much of anything for the quality of broadcasts of Augusta Board of Education meetings and other school events held elsewhere.

Also, broadcasting meetings at schools instead of at city center where there is an established production studio, takes more staff time for the production crew of Digital Spirit Media. The Waterville-based firm has a five-year contract with the city of Augusta, which pays about $115,000 a year to record and broadcast meetings and other events.

School board members have asked to use council chambers for their meetings, so they can be broadcast on CTV 7 and streamed on the Internet.

City councilors meet 6:30 Thursday in council chambers at Augusta City Center to discuss the request.

Now, the school board typically meets in the cafeteria at Capital Area Technical Center or the auditorium at Cony High School.

At those locations, “the logistics are difficult, the facilities are just not of the same quality as council chambers,” said City Manager William Bridgeo. “So, the school board would like to share the council chambers.”

There is nothing in the city charter specifying that council chambers shall only be used for council meetings.

If councilors aren’t willing to share council chambers with their counterparts on the school board, another meeting room could be set up at Augusta City Center, such as the lecture hall, to broadcast meetings on television.

Equipping the lecture hall with cameras, wiring, and other changes to make it TV-ready could cost up to $127,000, according to a memo from Leif Dahlin, community services director.

Councilors are also scheduled on Thursday to discuss a controversial proposal to allow aquaculture businesses anywhere agriculture is allowed now, which includes about two-thirds of the land area in the city.

The Planning Board, after the council asked board members to review the issue of aquaculture, recommended it be allowed as a conditional use in all zones where agriculture is allowed. That includes multiple zoning districts, which together encompass about two-thirds of the city’s land area, according to Matt Nazar, the city’s deputy development director.

Aquaculture is not presently allowed in any zones in the city.

The issue arose in response to a businessman’s proposal to start a business of breeding tropical fish and processing live imported mussels on land he owns surrounding Uncle Henry’s on Route 17. The businessman, Joseph Sutton, owns Uncle Henry’s, a weekly classified advertising publication.

Councilors are also scheduled to consider approving the North Wing of the Augusta Civic Center as the designated Ward 4 polling place for the June 12 primary election; hear an update on downtown projects from Richard and Tobias Parkhurst and Tina Charest; and hear an update on fundraising efforts to help expand and renovate Lithgow Public Library, from the Friends of Lithgow Library.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

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