By Tim Horan

Special to The Hays Daily News

SALINA --¨†Improving the quality of programs viewed over cable television and online is a high priority for Access TV, Executive Director Marnie Rhein told the Salina City Commission at a special meeting Monday afternoon.

Rhein said a gift from a community member has allowed Access TV to purchase new equipment.

"It was really a serious benefit, so we can focus on that," Rhein said. "The quality of our video production in playback and in online viewing is huge. That's a consistent comment we get."

She said the video is sharp online when it's tiny.

"But when you try to expand it, it gets really interesting," she said. "I'm like everyone else. I want to see it larger and sharper."

The lack of bandwidth over cable lowers the quality of the image, she said.

Staff are looking at what is the most feasible and what equipment is needed to make improvements.

"It's a high priority," Rhein said. "We have to have people watching. We have to have people wanting to watch. We definitely recognize that."

Tracking viewers

Mayor Aaron Householter said Access TV programs can be broadcast in high definition on the Internet.

Tracking viewers is another area of priority. Rhein said the number of online viewers can be tracked.

"One of the things we are going to start doing in our plan is to do more surveys in the community to get a better understanding of viewership, to track what programs people are watching, so we have a better understanding of our audience," she said. "How can we get a better understanding of our market if we don't know who's watching? If we don't know what people want?"

Commissioner Kaye Crawford said tracking the audience is difficult.

"Don't get a defeated feeling," she said. "Even the city tries to find out what people really want, and it's really difficult for us to find that out."

Rhein said workers at Access TV know they can't please everybody.

"We know everyone watches the parades, high school football, the river festival. Those are the knowns," Rhein said. "There are a lot of different programs that people truly enjoy."

The commission approved a two-year contract with Access TV, for $225,000, with a one-year extension.

Access TV has been providing public, educational and governmental television programming services in Salina since 1992, City Manager Jason Gage said.

Public service provided

In early 2014, the city hired The Leadership Firm and John Divine to conduct an organizational and functional performance review. The report provided an assessment and recommendations for topics of programming, funding, education/training, governance, staffing, partnerships, public relations, technology, volunteers and government programming.

Under the contract, Access is required to videotape, air live (when feasible) and replay specified city meetings, the "Your City in Action" program, candidate forums, legislative update forums, League of Women Voters "Lunch and Learn" educational sessions and a biweekly government news program.

Performance objectives include new programs, training and the development of a strategic partnership collaboration plan, to encourage the formation of partnerships with local colleges, public schools, the media and nonprofit organizations.

"Staff believes that Access TV provides a basic educational and communication service to the public with particular emphasis on people and mobility challenges and those that do not have access to this community information by other means," Gage said.

Projects OK'd

Also Monday, commissioners approved $11.2 million in capital improvement projects.

Deputy Director of Finance Andi Willems outlined to commissioners those areas of spending, including buildings and facilities, parks and recreation improvements, vehicles and equipment and water and wastewater enhancements.