Guilderland goes high-tech with Wi-Fi in the park and indexed video archives

The Enterprise — Elizabeth Floyd Mair

Sitting by the pool, checking on her own pool: Martha Maynard of Arizona, who is in Guilderland visiting her daughter, said on Wednesday that she thinks it is “wonderful” that Tawasentha Park has free Wi-Fi. “We don’t have that back home,” she said. While her grandchildren play in the water, she checks her email for progress on the pool being built thousands of miles away at her home.

GUILDERLAND — Tawasentha Park now has Wi-Fi. And soon, videos of all town meetings — town board, planning board, and zoning board of appeals — will be available on the town website.

The introduction of Wi-Fi to the park happened very quietly in July, said Guilderland Supervisor Peter Barber. “It’s been very well received and it’s pretty robust,” he said.

Jeffrey Gregory, the town’s network and systems technician, explained it was done with “bridges,” devices that he explained “kind of look like a little flat radar dish.” Two of those, placed at separate locations, can beam a wireless signal between them, he said.

Since the Parks and Recreation Department, diagonally across Route 146 from Tawasentha Park, already had internet service, Gregory placed a bridge there, and then another directly across the street, at the town’s maintenance department. One was set about 35 feet up, at the crest of the hill above the maintenance department, and the next on the roof of the poolhouse. One more was placed on top of the park’s large pavilion.

This approach is much cheaper than, for instance, having a cable provider come out and pull wires up to the pool building, Gregory said. Doing it that way, with actual infrastructure, would also have meant a separate monthly cable bill.

The system now in place is a starting point, he said. There may not be much coverage at the Guilderland Performing Arts Center where concerts are held, he said, because it is hard to transmit through the trees and foliage. “The bridges are line-of-sight,” he said. And the baseball fields are now dark, he said, without coverage. “But it can be expanded as the needs and wants justify, down the road,” he said.

Firewalls ensure that the public traffic stays separate from the work of the parks office, and throttling sets a limit on how much bandwidth can be used within the park. “So that, if there’s a concert, and there are 5,000 people in the park, it can never swamp and take over the entire internet pipe. They only get so much, and then the office gets the other part,” Gregory said.

One benefit of the new system is that it is no longer necessary to rent MiFi jetpacks from Verizon, as the town did last year to provide access for the laptops used at the pavilion for organizing counselors’ schedules and doing other work related to running Guilderland’s summer camp.

Video archiving of meetings is coming

Another innovation currently in the works is the archiving on the town’s website of all the board meetings that are currently shown live on a government-access channel and replayed several times during the week.

Those meetings will still be filmed by Thomas Quaglieri of Guilderland’s What’s Happenin’ Productions. “Tom is still the man behind the camera,” Gregory said. “He’s still in charge of all that.”

What is new is that a company called Earth Channel will provide the town with hardware — a box that will be located at town hall that captures and digitizes the video as it goes out, creating a file for it — and with the software to use to archive meetings.

A town employee will then index and archive the meeting file on the town’s website in an archive directory set up by Earth Channel. The indexing will mean that viewers who want to look at, for instance, only the part of a meeting that was related to the new hotel at Crossgates Mall, can do that easily.

The videos will be tied to meeting agendas, said Barber, and clicking on any item in the agenda will bring up just that portion of the video.

Visitors to the website can also search the archives by topic, Gregory added.

Maps or site plans shown at the meeting can also be archived and indexed along with the video, making a more complete historical record, Gregory explained. He said that he expects this system to be up and running later this fall or by about the end of the year.


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