Quesnel City Council to proceed with technological upgrades to council chambers with a estimated budget of up to $120,000 in 2020.
Quesnel City Council voted unanimously to proceed with the upgrades to the chambers which will allow videoconferencing and webcasting to take place while still insuring all COVID-19 safety protocols and requirements can be followed.
According to a City Staff report, the “rough estimate” of the costs to upgrade council chambers is $120,000 which includes all the work that was in the original council chambers update project which was delayed to 2021 as well as additional work for more cameras and an upgraded sound system.
The additional cameras will improve existing camera angles due to the new seating requirements in the chambers which are a result of COVID-19 and complete the upgrade to replace the projector screens with television screens.
The original webcasting project in council chambers has been completed and is ready to be implemented once council moves back into Chambers however it only includes one camera which is pointed at the horseshoe. Due to spacing requirements put in place as a result of COVID-19, only Council will be seated at the horseshoe while staff will sit in the lobby area. This means when a staff member gives a report to Council, the camera will only see the back of their head, therefore an additional camera will be required.
“Whether we like it or not, because staff are in the meeting room with us in the chamber we are subjected to the WorkSafe B.C. restrictions on social distancing,” said Mayor Simpson. “On the webcasting side of things that means that the only camera we have set up would see the back of their head and we’ve got a suspect sound system. So we really need to make sure that if that’s the mode we are moving to that the presenter can be seen – particularly if webcasting is the only way that we can allow the public to be able to engage with us.”
The report also states that for the foreseeable future it is unlikely that consultants and delegations will want to travel to and appear in council chambers and in those instances having the ability to use video conferencing would be preferable. Currently the council chambers are not set up to facilitate video conferencing and the upgrades would make that ability to available.
Quesnel Mayor Bob Simpson also noted that the cost savings involved with consultants travel and presentation cost would be substantial.
“We have experienced here very productive meetings with consultants that don’t cost us anywhere near what it would cost us if those consulting teams were up,” said Mayor Simpson. “So we’ve got a couple of projects on the go where we’ve sat in the Fraser room and worked with the consultants – and we didn’t eat the $1,500 a day or $2,000 a day associated travel expenses with those meetings, we just get the billable hours. With this technology embedded in our council chambers we would be, over time, getting that money back.”
Mayor Simpson also added the the cost of the upgrades would be covered in the existing budget and no incremental taxation of the public would be needed.
“Director Bolton has told us where in our existing budget the money would come from so there is no incremental taxation and I think that’s important for everybody to understand, that in order to accomplish this we’re moving some money around that we’ve already got in our budget and are taxing for, there is no incremental taxation for the public we are just re-prioritizing funding, ” said Mayor Simpson.