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Shelter Island IT team seeks Skype-like system

REPORTER ILLUSTRATION | Virtual attendance of town meetings might soon be on the way.

REPORTER ILLUSTRATION | Virtual attendance of town meetings by board members, who will be able to vote on issues remotely, might soon be on the way.

Three out of seven members of the Waterways Management Advisory Council will be unable to attend meetings during winter months and a fourth is likely to miss them.

To overcome the problem of absenteeism, the town is turning to its information technology team to explore using Skype or another video conference service to allow remote participation.

Outgoing Councilman Ed Brown, who has been one of the Town Board’s liaisons to the WMAC, asked for an early meeting of the town’s IT team to get the project rolling.

Last year, board members discussed implementing Skype or a similar video system, but were quoted an estimate of between $8,000 and $12,000 — too rich for their blood.

Martha Kennelly, who for a decade ran the Mid East Suffolk Teacher Center that specialized in assisting school districts in technology, expressed surprise at those expenses.

With some research, she said, there are audio-video communications systems that are much less expensive.

Under the state’s Open Meetings Law, members calling via phone conferencing are prohibited from voting, but those who join a meeting via an audio-visual hookup can vote since their images can be viewed to ensure their identities.

The members who said they wouldn’t be attend meetings in person this winter are Mike Anglin, Alfred Loreto and George Zinger. Marc Wein indicated he might not be in town for some of the winter meetings.

A majority of the board must be in the room or communicating using an audio-video hookup that allows their images to appear on screen if a vote is to be taken.

The WMAC’s first meeting of 2016 is scheduled for Monday, January 4, possibly too soon to have the audiovisual conferencing problem resolved and put in place.