Glenwood Springs City Council chambers gets makeover
City upgrades audio, visual capabilities in public meeting room
An effort to upgrade Glenwood Springs City Council chambers’ audio and video capabilities is nearing completion, city IT Director Alissa Owsley said.
With the original council chambers A/V equipment dating back to the city hall’s construction in 2001, the system was starting to show its age, City Manager Debra Figueroa said.
“It was basically Band-Aided together, and even then we were dealing with technical gremlins nearly every week prior to the pandemic,” Figueroa said.
Allotting about $160,000 for the upgrade, city staff began work on the City Council A/V Upgrade project in 2021 and first broadcast a council meeting with the new system on Feb. 18.
“We’re still working out a few kinks and waiting on some final equipment, but the upgrade is substantially complete,” Owsley said.
City staff did not have a final cost on the project, but Figueroa said it would likely fall close to the $160,000 initially budgeted.
The upgrade includes four, large-screen, ceiling-suspended TVs, which replace the chamber’s old projector system. Two of the TVs face council and two face the audience, providing visual coverage for video elements, such as Zoom presentations.
A fifth TV, held over from the previous chamber’s configuration, is slated to present meeting materials, such as the agenda, for audience members.
Prior to the pandemic, video conferencing was a rare commodity among small, municipal governments. But, in 2020, video-hosting platforms like Zoom became commonplace as local governments tried to balance social distancing requirements with governmental transparency standards.
Glenwood Springs’ A/V capabilities were not up to task, however, and in the initial days of the pandemic meetings were hosted with little more than a speaker phone and video feed for YouTube.
The city’s new and improved Crestron A/V system is better equipped to process audio and video, streamlining its interactions with video-sharing platforms, Owsley said.
In some instances, audience members expressed an inability to hear council deliberations, but new council microphones and upgraded speakers throughout the room could facilitate clearer communication between council members and the audience.
A new voting system is built into the upgraded Shure microphones, allowing council members to vote on agenda items anonymously from each other, but not the audience.
Council members can use three buttons on the new microphones to approve, deny or abstain, and the results appear on the overhead screens facing the audience. The improvement could prevent council members from feeling swayed to vote one way or another by being the last called upon to vote on a given topic.
Not every upgrade was digital, however. The council’s dias and city clerk station, comment podium and city staff workstation received new countertops as part of the project, Owsley said.
Previously, the countertop was recessed to facilitate large computer monitors for the council members as well as the boards and commissions that use the chambers.
Figueroa said with the council moving to portable computers, the recessed countertops were unnecessary and some council members expressed the old dias created too much separation between council and the audience.
Overall, the changes could benefit future public meetings, whether in person or by video, Owsley said.
“The benefit is we can provide more avenues for resident engagement without needing residents to be physically present during city meetings,” she said.
Reporter Ike Fredregill can be reached at 970-384-9154 or by email at email@example.com.
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