City begins appropriation process to upgrade audio and tech

The Columbus City Council voted 8-0 to approve the first reading of an ordinance to appropriate money to be used on audio and video capability upgrades in various rooms at Columbus City Hall.

The city is looking to appropriate $300,000 from a fund the city uses for city hall improvements called the “Misc. Service Fund” to enhance the council chambers, the Cal Brand Meeting Room and three conference rooms, according to the ordinance.

Ordinances must be passed on two readings to be approved. Councilman Chris Bartels, R-District 1, was absent.

“This is just to say that we’re going to allow it to go out for bids for up to $300,000,” said Council President Frank Miller, R-District 4.

City officials have received one quote from Ovation Technology Group, but Executive Director of Administration Eric Frey told Councilwoman Grace Kestler, D-At-Large, they intend to get quotes from others as well.

If the second reading is approved, the city will still have to go through a required request for proposal (RFP) process and the Columbus Board of Public Works and Safety would have to sign off on the final contract.

Upgrades the city is looking for are multiple-camera set ups, adding screens and enhancing microphone systems. The council chambers use what are called puck microphones and Frey said they’d look to acquire more of them for other rooms.

Kestler said the upgrades will make it easier for the public to join in on the machinations of city government.

“I think it improves the meeting quality but it also brings us up to speed more on ADA regulations on audio online and accessibility requirements just to operate as a city,” Kestler said. “I know it’s a lot, as Eric said, but I think it will help people to engage as much as they can with us as city councilors and community members, which is what we want.”

Councilwoman Elaine Hilber, D-District 2, said the upgrades have “been needed for a long time” and thanked Frey and Mayor Mary Ferdon’s administration for pursuing them.

Councilman Josh Burnett, R-At Large, who works as Communications Coordinator for Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. (BCSC), said he knew from personal experience how “there’s so many things that can go right, or can go wrong” technology-wise while broadcasting meetings and suggested a variety of people be trained to learn how the system operates if and when it comes together later.

“With the amount of meetings we have, I definitely think it’s worth the investment, thank you for prioritizing it,” Burnett told Frey.

If the ordinance is ultimately approved, installation could begin in the fourth quarter of this year, Frey told the council.