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Coalhurst council chamber upgrades to be considered during budget

Posted on September 14, 2023 by Sunny South News
From left to right: Coalhurst councillor Heather Caldwell, Councillor Jessie Potrie, Mayor Lindsay Montina, Councillor Scott Akkermans, Councillor Deborah Florence.

By Nikki Jamieson
Sunny South News

Upgrades to improve meeting efficiency will be considered by Coalhurst town council during fall budget deliberations.

During their regular Sept. 5 meeting, Coalhurst town council discussed potential changes to the council layout and technology.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Town of Coalhurst had received a grant to renovate their council chambers to better accommodate the restrictions put in place for meeting during a pandemic, and during this time, they had a wall-mounted camera installed to allow them to livestream their meetings.

However, since then, council has found that the new layout presents difficulties in terms of public participation and in holding effective council meetings, and the current camera set-up has presented some challenges to town administration as well, as the overall system is piecemealed together according to the report, and they face issues such as some mics aren’t operational and workarounds need to be put in place should someone appear over Zoom.

If council chose to update their layout, they could either purchase new furniture or surplus equipment from another municipality. While administration did not provide specific options as to how the Town could upgrade their recording and virtual meeting capabilities, in the report to council, it was noted that upgrading the technology components to equipment more suited to a council chamber or boardroom capacity would also allow them to run smoother meetings.

Coun. Jesse Potrie said he didn’t believe “shoe-horning” in another municipality’s surplus furniture would work in their space, and was in favour of purchasing new furniture. He was also in favour of pre-built rather than custom furniture, noting they could get some that connected together.

“Those desks might cost a little bit more money, but the benefit of having a pre-manufactured furniture item would allow the ability to potentially reuse the furniture, say if the council chambers need to be moved or if it needs to be sold or (reused) in our own organization,” said Potrie, adding that they or another municipality would have issues doing that with their current desk.

However, he felt that they needed more information in terms of furniture options. Once administration knows what style of furniture and layout council wants, they can come back with an estimate for electrical and IT.

Coun. Deborah Florence said she would like to see this item as part of budget discussions in the fall. Noting that one of the funding options for it is the 2022 surplus – about $221,000 – she would like to see some policy in place as to how they spend it. Other funding options include the MSI Operating Grant – although only if the total cost is less than $10,000, or from the Administration Reserve – which has a projected closing balance of about $49,000 at the end of 2023. Upgrading technology would also be funded through these three streams.

Florence proposed that they shortlist and invite prequalified companies to submit estimates for new technology options. Mayor Lyndsay Montina voiced support for it as well.

“I think knowing what those companies could be or what others have used would probably cut down on people that wouldn’t be suitable necessarily, so we’re not ending up in a similar situation we have come upon in the past,” said Montina.

Council passed a motion to direct administration to explore new conference-style desks and report back to council with detailed budget and desk options by no later than Dec. 16, and include it as part of the 2024 budget discussions.

Council passed a motion to direct administration to shortlist and invite prequalified companies to provide costing proposals for the supply, delivery, and installation of new Council Chambers’ audio and visual equipment options by no later than Dec. 16, and include it as part of the 2024 budget discussions.

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