By Nikki Jamieson
Sunny South News
Lethbridge County council could soon be coming to you live on your computer.
During their regular Aug. 16 meeting, Lethbridge County council reviewed the results of a recent communications survey.
Throughout the month of June, the county had implemented a communications survey, in order to gauge how well their current communication strategy has done, how to improve that strategy, what mediums their citizens are getting their county news from and how often they visit the county’s website or view the County Connection.
Administration had also sought feedback on whether citizens feel they are receiving the right amount of information, and what information they feel is lacking.
The online survey survey was available to residents through the County’s website, social media pages and the County app. Printed surveys were also offered at the Lethbridge and Picture Butte administration offices. After the survey concluded, the communications department made five recommendations based from the results:
— Creating a monthly newsletter for residents, which would be made available online, by e-mail and in print at the County administration offices.
— Live-streaming and recording Council meetings
— Providing more information on capital projects through reports to citizens, although this recommendation has been implemented since the survey closed, through a capital project update form on the County website.
— Providing Councillor/departmental reports on activities and events attended, and this recommendation has also implemented since the survey’s conclusion, as these reports are required at each Council meeting and published in Council Briefs and Minutes.
— Providing county residents with more communication overall, which has the county’s communications department looking at ways to provide information on more topics through the County’s current platforms
When asked if she was surprised by the responses or disappointed that there wasn’t more of them — as they had received only 43 responses out of the county’s 10,353 population — Mattie Elliot, communications coordinator for the county, said that although she wished they had more respondents, but as it was there first survey, “it’s always kind of hard to get responses the first time around”.
“I think, if we decide to do this next year, I would look at other ways to advertise it,” said Elliot. “We had put out the County Connection before the idea of the survey came about, so I think that next year, maybe we put that in our newsletter and more people would know about it, or we can look at putting it, maybe in our tax notices, something like that to get more respondents.”
Another item of interest was the question concerning which division the resident resided in, where 25 residents replied that they were ‘Not Sure’. Elliot said she was quite surprised by that answer, and suggested that next time they put the corresponding councillor’s name next to it.
County CAO Ann Mitchell touched on the possibility of live-streaming council meetings, saying that when they talked to nearby municipalities who did live-stream their council meetings, they found that more people watched the live-stream, not necessarily when it was happening, but later on, focusing on sections of the meeting that had an item that interested them.
“Quite a few (municipalities) are going that way, just because, you know, there is a lot of people who are in the digital age; they don’t necessarily want to come out, and because of mobility issues as well too, and they would rather look at things from the comfort of their own home,” said Mitchell. “With council meetings, you could go and there might be an item, but you may have to sit here for an hour and a half, so they really like the live-streaming, it has been well received.”
Larry Randle, director of community services for the County, noted that they do hear — perhaps council more so then County staff — that they do need to improve their communication, and although they didn’t get a huge response from the survey, those who did respond were “overwhelming” in favour of some sort of video recording.
“When we discussed it, we thought of it as one more piece to the puzzle of better communication,” said Randle. “It may not be the end all, be all, for everyone, but if we pick up some people, who otherwise, you know, maybe aren’t reading Twitter and seeing Facebook on our webpage and whatever in newspaper, it’s another avenue and hopefully it fills in the holes.”
Council passed a motion to receive the survey for information, and directed administration to proceed with implementing the live-streaming and recording of Council meetings by Dec. 31, 2018, and a monthly newsletter to be distributed online and through an e-mail opt-in form for residents beginning September 2018.