CHELSEA — Starting in January, town officials will start airing meetings of town boards on the internet.

The move comes after some Chelsea residents have complained that they are not informed enough about town issues.

“We took a huge step toward doing that,” Town Manager Scott Tilton said.

“We’re trying to really work on communication with the community,” said Deb Sanderson, chairwoman of the Board of Selectmen. “Not everyone, of course, has a computer or the ability to livestream. So we’ll still continue to look for other options to have folks feel as though they can be more engaged in a meaningful way, but this is certainly a first step.”

Tilton said Chelsea is contracting with Town Hall Streams for six months, at a cost of $250 a month. The equipment needed for the system is scheduled to be installed next week in the town’s meeting room. A camera will be affixed to the back wall and a microphone will be installed over the table where the board members sit.

When the service goes online, Chelsea will join the 32 other government boards in Maine that use Town Hall Streams, which allows viewers to watch the meetings on the internet live as they happen, or to tune in at their own convenience. In central Maine, Richmond, China and Pittsfield use the service.

The move comes after Chelsea selectmen briefly considered a cable franchise fee that could have helped pay for local access programming. They were reluctant to pursue the agreement because it also meant adding an additional fee to the cable bills that town residents pay.

Complaints about sharing information arose earlier this year, when a proposed site plan ordinance appeared on the Town Meeting warrant.

Throughout the year, the Planning Board had worked to develop a proposed ordinance that would impose some parameters on new businesses interested in setting up shop in Chelsea, based on the size of the project. The work was done in open meetings and workshops for which advance notice was given, but they were not well attended.

The proposal proved unpopular, and it was voted down decisively in June at Town Meeting.

Elected officials have said that unless there’s a controversy, Chelsea residents don’t attend board or town meetings.

In a bid to foster community involvement, town officials have started hosting public events. A week ago, Chelsea had its second holiday tree lighting outside the Town Hall.

“Chelsea is kind of unique in that we don’t have a town center, or a hub of activity,” Sanderson said. “The Town Office is by the school, and certainly there is a lot of traffic on the main thoroughfare, but there’s not a central point where people congregate.

“It is a challenge. It is a challenge to get that community feel in Chelsea,” she added. “With our last very successful tree lighting, so many people volunteered and came out. I think that just has the opportunity to continue growing yearly.”

Livestreaming the meetings is one more tool for town officials to use to promote communication, she said, although it won’t be the only one.

Tilton said selectmen’s meetings will be livestreamed and archived.

Andrea Smith, chairwoman of the Chelsea Planning Board, said the board has agreed to have its meetings livestreamed as well.

Tilton said meetings of other town committees and boards, including the Budget and Economic Development committees, also could be livestreamed.

The exception, he said, is Town Meeting or any other meeting that takes place in the Chelsea school for space reasons.

Under the agreement, Tilton said, meetings will be archived and available for five years.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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