The City of Kissimmee is spending $38,000 to upgrade all of the audio and visual equipment in the city's commission chambers.
Among the improvements, two 70-inch flat screen televisions that will be seen by the audience in the chambers.
Assistant City Manager Gabe De Jesus could not meet with us in person for an interview, so he answered our questions on the spending via email:
What's the condition of what you have?
"The equipment is the age of the building. It is getting to the point where overhead projections from the document camera are washed out. Colors are not visible and detail is not clear. The microphones behind the dais cut out on a regular basis during meetings and cannot be muted if a commissioner needs to cough or is not present. Microphones then bleed into one another disrupting the recording. The majority of the wiring has been patched and adjusted to where we can no longer continue to fix the system at a worthwhile amount. The projector bulbs are so expensive and the projector quality is so bad that its use is hardly worthwhile. Around half of the channels on the mixer have burned out and can not be repaired, we currently have the ability to have 6 active channels so some are spliced and split, again when the spliced channels speak at the same time it disrupts the recording quality; this prevents the public and media from having an accurate recording of the meeting's activities."
What are you upgrading to?
"We are increasing the brightness of the projector with a new projector. We are also replacing the microphones, document camera, wiring, and mixers. These are standard replacements of broken or faulty equipment. I would not consider it an upgrade as much as a repair. As for upgrades we are adding a ceiling microphone that will eliminate the pedestal microphone in the middle of the floor. Often media requests the microphone be moved during meetings for better photographs and the portion of the meeting that is held on the floor is lost. The other addition is 2, 70" monitors that will flank the dais to improve viewing capabilities of the public. The contrast abilities of these monitors are much better than the projector with the lighting situation in the chambers. The projector will be largely used for longer presentations and videos while the monitors will be used for every commission meeting. Since the majority of this project is repairs and replacements the appearance of the room will hardly change. This is really being done to preserve the integrity of the public meetings held in this room."
Did you look at less expensive alternatives?
"This project was value engineered as much as possible. The current control panels that cost over $4000 each are being reprogrammed versus replaced. 2 of the 3 that are being replaced are being replaced by tablets we had in surplus with the addition of $100 app versus the cost of a $4000 panel. Repairs and upgrades have been done as affordably as possible in the past. As I stated the equipment is 13 years old and has superseded its useful life. Repairs at this point will cost more than new equipment.An example is a switcher/mixer that went out earlier this year, the replacement will cost around $100 while the repair would have been well over $1000. It is our hope that the equipment we selected last another 13 years. I should also point out that this room is used by a lot of advisory boards and community groups; not just the City Commission. Given the amount of groups this equipment will service and the longevity we hope to achieve we believe that we have done the best we can to make good decisions with the public's money to preserve the integrity and transparency of public meetings."
The Kissimmee City Council approved the expenditure on April 16, 2013.