By RAYMOND L. SMITH
WARREN - Lights, camera, council.
If Warren's administration can work out a deal, Time Warner Cable may soon be replaying city council meetings on its public access channel.
"We are offering Warren a chance to show its city council meetings on our cable station at no cost to it," said Joe Perkins, president and founder of Youngstown-based Perkins Communications LLC. "All the city has to do is to provide the DVD of the council meetings to us and we will show the meetings on the local public television station."
Perkins said council meetings could be shown multiple times a week on Channel 15.
"We will be approaching all of the local governments in our service area over the next six months," Perkins said.
Perkins Communication LLC is Time Warner Cable's broadcast originator for its public television station. The family-owned business operating out of the Youngstown Business Incubator was formed in 2000 and does product design and management, as well as software development.
"We tend to get a lot of calls about video production and security management," Perkins said.
Prior to opening the family business, Perkins was a broadcast engineer at various local television stations, including Tribune Chronicle newspartner WYTV 33 News and PBS stations 45/49. He also worked as the chief technology officer with the Youngstown incubator.
The company has been working on and off with Cortland city government in broadcasting its council meetings since that period.
"We run their meetings when they provide us with the DVDs," Perkins said.
Cortland City Council President James Woofter said the city has not broadcast the council meetings for about a year but is working to re-establish the program.
"I was surprised, actually, on how well received (the broadcasts) were by our residents," said Woofter, who is completing his second term in office.
"I knew that people were watching because there were times that people stopped me on the street to talk about issues they saw us discussing. It does generate interest in government.
"My only disappointment is that it only is broadcast on Time Warner Cable's Channel 15 in Trumbull because I, like other residents, have other providers.''
Woofter said Cortland did not have to spend tax money to purchase equipment because the recording equipment is built into the administration building.
"We were already recording the meetings," he said.
In addition to the Cortland meetings, Channel 15 also show programs made by Warren G. Harding High School students.
"Some people believe we are the Warren Harding station because it has supplied us with so many hours of programming," Perkins said, only half-jokingly. "We have more than 400 titles from Warren Harding and expect that amount to at least double.''
"This is an excellent offer to allow us to bring government to the city," Warren Mayor Doug Franklin said after the public utilities meeting held last week during which the project was discussed. "It will provide residents an even increased opportunity to see how government works."
Since it could cost the city thousands of dollars to purchase video and other equipment for the project, Franklin suggested the city likely will approach Warren City Schools about working with it.
"The district already has a production facility in place and is training students in public television production," Franklin said. "That will lower our costs. It can be a win-win on both sides."
Fred Whitacre, an adviser with Warren Student Communication Network at Harding, said he would welcome the opportunity.
"This would be good on a couple fronts, including allowing students to see what goes on in government and how it works, as well as providing another link between the high school and the community."
Whitacre doesn't believe setting up the program would be difficult because his students have experience recording events outside of the classroom, including sporting events and political debates.
"Because this is an extracurricular activity, students participating in the recording of the meetings will have permission to do some after school programs," Whitacre said.