Toledo, Ohio, Council to Vote on $144K in AV Upgrades

City officials will decide Tuesday whether to move ahead with audio visual upgrades to council chambers. To date, the city has only provided audio files of city council meetings.

by Sarah Elms, The Blade / March 4, 2019

(TNS) — Toledo City Council chambers is headed toward a $144,000 technology upgrade that will allow meetings to be video-streamed online, among other improvements.

Councilmen on Tuesday are slated to vote on awarding a $144,300 contract to Gibsonburg-based Westfield Technologies for new audio and visual equipment and its installation.

Four companies bid on the project, and Westfield Technologies was the lowest bidder and committed to employing 25 percent women or minorities to do the work.

Councilmen Peter Ujvagi, a Democrat, and Tom Waniewski, a Republican, have been pushing for the technology improvements and hope it will make city council more efficient and transparent.

“It's been a very long time since the city has updated the technology in council chambers, and very honestly sometimes it’s very difficult to hear people and to understand people,” Mr. Ujvagi said. “Most importantly when you're having testimony and people want to present a Power Point, half the people can't see it.”

The plan is to install new microphones at each council seat, as well as two wireless microphones for city officials and members of the public to use when they speak during meetings. There also will be a new digital timing system with two displays so the public and council members know how long they have to talk.

A wireless video presentation system will include screens at each council seat, and officials plan to install two 70-inch monitors on the walls to display agenda items or presentations.

“We really wanted to bring folks into the 21st century,” Mr. Waniewski said.

In May, 2018, council approved spending $40,000 from the capital improvement fund to buy 25 Microsoft Surface tablets and related software and equipment for each councilman and his or her staff. Mr. Waniewski said this upgrade is an extension of that push to modernize the way the government operates.

“We've pinched every nickel using both 2018 and 2019 dollars to fund this. I think it’s a good expenditure of the money,” he said.

City council currently live-streams and archives all meetings online, but it’s audio-only. WGTE Public Media also provides a live feed to Buckeye Broadband, but only for city council’s regular voting meetings, which happen once every two weeks.

The planned technology upgrades include three new cameras and a control system that will allow for a real-time and archived video stream of every meeting.

“This is another way for us to get information out about what council members are doing, what legislation is, and get that out into the public,” Mr. Waniewski said. “I think that will be a benefit.”

©2019 The Blade (Toledo, Ohio). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.