News from the Muncipality of West Hants.
Citizens attending West Hants council meetings in the near future won't have to strain as hard to hear what's being said.
Council approved the purchase and installation of an audio upgrade for council chambers during their Sept. 10 regular council meeting.
Council voted in favour of proceeding with a $15,000 (plus HST) upgrade through Backman Vidcon, plus the purchase of a $1,200 (plus HST) desktop recording system and speakers purchased through Video World at a cost of $570 (HST included). After the motion passed, they agreed to have speakers set up outside the building, at an additional cost of about $300.
The need to upgrade the audio system in council chambers became apparent during several well-attended council meetings this summer.
At the July council meeting, more than 150 people tried to hear what was being said concerning the Windsor Fire Department and the municipality's plans to continue — or discontinue — with the service they provide. Council exceeded fire regulations that evening, and residents, who couldn't fit in the council chambers, stood in the hallway trying to hear the proceedings. Some stood outside the entrance of the building as well.
During the Aug. 27 committee of the whole meeting, Jeff Hanshaw, the municipality's IT specialist, told council $21,000 had been set aside during the budgetary process to complete additional upgrades to council chambers.
The need to update the audio system “really sort of came to light at the past few meetings where you had overflow in the hallway,” said Hanshaw at the meeting.
He noted that the upgrade was “part of the overall master plan that we've had for this room.” The first phase involved installing projectors.
Hanshaw provided councillors with an overview of the proposed system. Each councillor would have a microphone that they would switch on to speak, which would also prevent interruptions and councillors from speaking at the same time.
Hanshaw further noted that the microphone system would be connected to a centralized computer where the audio files of the council meeting would be recorded and stored. Warden Richard Dauphinee spoke in favour of having the integrated recording system.
“I've seen them have problems with the machine up here several times. Or, they think it's working and they go in to do their minutes and it didn't work. That is a problem, so I'm for that,” said Dauphinee at the committee of the whole meeting.
Both Coun. Randy Matheson and the warden expressed they were not anticipating the system to cost quite that much. However, they were in favour of getting the work done.
“I'm all for it... When people can't hear, that's not good,” said Matheson.
“When I brought this up at council, like Coun. Matheson, I thought it would be a lot less but it is what it is,” Dauphinee noted.
In order to save on the final cost, Dauphinee suggested they did not need to include electronic voting.
“As far as voting, there's only nine of us. Even if I had to ask them to raise their hands, we can see. Personally I'm not willing to pay thousands of dollars (for that feature),” Dauphinee said, which council was in agreement with.
Hanshaw pointed out that Wolfville town council also opted not to include the electronic voting function.
Very little discussion was held at the September meeting with regards to the audio upgrade. Council voted unanimously in favour the project.