“This call is being recorded.”

This is a warning anyone calling Meadow Lake city hall to conduct business in recent months has likely been made aware of, and, going forward, it’s something that will soon apply to all landlines belonging to the City of Meadow Lake.

During the regular meeting of Meadow Lake city council held Monday evening (Oct. 23), approval was given to have call recording implemented on all city staff landlines in the 2024 budget. Expanded call recording was initially proposed at the city’s annual budget meeting held Oct. 14.

“In early 2023, the city began testing call recording on select phones to work in tandem with the zero tolerance policy that was approved by council in December 2022,” explained executive assistant Gabriella Marsh in her official recommendation to council. “Both of these were put in place to ensure the safety and well-being of city staff against bullying, harassment and abuse. This service allows us to review past calls and have them transcribed into text for easy referencing. Since the installation of call recording on select phones, city staff have had a positive experience with the service stating they feel callers have been more cognizant of their language and tone of voice.”

Marsh did note, however, some callers or recipients of calls from these lines do seem uncomfortable with the recording feature.

“Callers are told at the beginning of every call on these select sets the call is being recorded, the service has been helpful in mitigating harmful behaviour as callers know they are being recorded,” she stated. “When the staff who were part of the trial run were asked about their experiences with the call recording software, they all stated it has been a useful tool to be able to quickly and easily recall information stated over the phone. Many people also said it was helpful for them to review difficult conversations and learn how to better handle conflict resolution.”

Currently, five of 18 phone lines use call recording.

“With the success we’ve seen using it on select phones thus far, the intent would be to increase the budget to include all city phone lines,” Marsh added.

The motion to expand call recording and include this as a 2024 budget item was made by councillor Marty Bishop and seconded by councillor Mauri Young.

“This is a good thing to have – it’s a way of protecting our staff from all kinds of things that can happen to them when they get phone calls,” Bishop said. “In fact, I think we should take it one step further and, at a later date, start recording everything that goes on at city hall – meetings between our staff and the public – everything should be recorded, whether it be by video or a third person sitting in and taking extensive notes.”

Mayor Merlin Seymour wondered if this would be a human resources concern.

“Everything is privacy protected, but, when we get into that ‘he said, she said’ business, it kills us every time,” Bishop replied. “If there is something in place where both parties know they’re being recorded, it will alleviate a whole lot of heartache. But, a good start is to have call recording in place for all city staff phone lines.”

by Phil Ambroziak