Chris Caskey, The Union Democrat

Tuolumne County is moving forward with a new program that will allow online streaming for public meetings - but not without some protest from a representative of a local media provider.

The board on Tuesday approved a contract with Granicus Inc. for software and hardware that will allow the board to stream future and past meetings on the Internet.

Under the agreement, unanimously approved Tuesday as part of the consent agenda, the county will pay the San Francisco-based audio-video company a one-time fee of $8,825 for the equipment, program installation, training and system configuration.

The county will also pay $1,169 monthly for maintenance and web hosting charges, according to the agreement.

Supervisors' meetings are currently streamed online by a local radio station as well as played cable access. And George Segarini, a member of the local cable access network's board, questioned why the cable station couldn't handle the streaming duties.

Segarini, who is also executive director of the Tuolumne County Chamber of Commerce, said Cable 8 could offer what he described as comparable services for cheaper. He said local cable representatives contacted the county, offering online streaming for $4,200 per year and on-demand program services for an additional $2,700 a year.

Segarini also said the cable network would cover the cost of equipment under a streaming agreement.

"I still think the local folks here can provide you as good if not better presentation than what you're voting on today," he said.

However, both County Administrator Craig Pedro and Deputy Administrator Daniel Richardson said the two offers are not "apples to apples" comparisons. The Granicus program offers online agenda management, meeting minutes functions and other options on the platform that Cable 8 does not.

"Their product cannot do the whole suite," Richardson said.

Richardson also said it's still possible for the county to use both services simultaneously.

According to its website, Granicus Inc., founded in 1999, has 367,608 archived webcasts streaming from 906 government agencies.

This is the second time this year that a local company was beat out for a contract involving online-related services. In March, Mother Lode Internet asked to be considered over Comcast for high-speed Internet services for the county.

The five-year contract, which totalled $120,000, was eventually awarded to Comcast, one of the nation's largest video, high-speed Internet and phone providers.

In other action, the Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors:

• Voted to waive all building and safety fees for Parrotts Ferry Village, a low-income housing project being completed by Habitat for Humanity of Tuolumne County. Work on the 35-unit project on Parrotts Ferry Road is under way, with four completed so far.

The waiver is expected to save the affordable housing organization about $56,500.

The board voted 4-0, with Randy Hanvelt recusing himself due to connections with the organization.

•Approved a letter to the California State Water Resources Control Board on the lake level at Pinecrest. In the letter, the board asks the state board to give Tuolumne Utilities District and PG&E more flexibility on how low they can draw the lake during dry years.

The board recently set a minimum 5,608-foot water line elevation at the popular reservoir, which is also the main water supply for TUD. The utility is seeking more flexibility to draw it lower in dry years, with TUD officials also saying the restriction will create unnecessary water shortages in the future. Environmental and recreation advocates are calling on the state to keep the level as it is and for TUD to conserve more water.