What if they had a Village Board meeting and nobody could hear it?
What if a lawyer presented plans and images to a local board at a public meeting that no one in the audience could see?
Those aren’t hypotheticals, like that question about a tree falling in the woods with no one there to hear it. Those are chronic real-life problems for spectators in the Sag Harbor Village Hall meeting room — especially in summer, when the air conditioning system in the back of the room is groaning away.
Prompted by Zoning Board of Appeals chairman Robbie Stein, a former village trustee, the Village Board is doing something about it.
At its January 8 monthly meeting, the Village Board of Trustees accepted the $12,161.33 bid of Black Sheep Television Ltd. to upgrade the existing audio system in the meeting room and install two high definition 65-inch flat screen video monitors. Wirelessly connected to inputs at the podium, they will display to the audience and the board members any plans, renderings and slide shows speakers have on their laptops.
To people in the back of the meeting room, who often complain they can’t hear or see, Trustee James Larocca said at a village board meeting last week, “Help is on the way.”
The upgrade installation will probably begin within the next month, Jacque Ditte, president of the Black Sheep Television, said on Monday, “and shouldn’t take too long” to complete.
Exactly when work will begin, he said, depends on finalizing the contract; the installation of an outlet on the room’s west wall for the two monitors; and determining when the longest break will be between upcoming municipal meetings so the work can be done without interfering.
Former Trustee Stein pushed for the upgrade when, as acting chairman of the Zoning Board of Appeals, he wrote an email to the mayor and trustees on October 17 calling for better microphones at the dais and the speakers’ podium. He also called for two “smart boards” on swiveling mounts, one directed at the board and the other audience.
Trustee Aiden Corish responded by email a day later, calling it “a sensible request” that “would go a long way towards making our meetings more accessible. I have received some complaints that we on the dais are sometimes inaudible and that anyone speaking from the podium is more often than not inaudible” to people in the audience.
As for the existing audio system, “My experience …. Is that it tends to be more effective in the off position,” he wrote.
Mr. Corish also wrote that the village should consider “installing one or two cameras to record and broadcast over IP our various meetings,” as the meetings of the East Hampton and Southampton Town Boards are; so are the meetings of the Southampton Village Board. “No doubt this would more than likely be cost-prohibitive right now,” Mr. Corish added, “but having an idea of the cost and preparing the room for a future installation would make sense to me.”
Trustee Corish announced that the upgrade was in the works at the November 13 Village Board meeting, when the board voted to seek bids.
There are no formal plans to broadcast meetings. The specs do not call for any cameras or video recording equipment; the village did ask bidders, however, to provide the ability to make quality audio recordings. Staff currently uses hand-held devices for that.
According to the bid specs and Black Sheep Television’s proposal, the new system will include seven new wired microphones with goosenecks and table stands, five for the five-member board’s dais, one for the attorney’s and consultant’s table and one for the podium; an internet connection; and a digital recorder; a loudspeaker management system; a component VGA and HDMI converter; a “pod integration unit” compatible with Apple, PC and Android devices; and two Samsung 65-inch monitors and two large swivel mounts. Labor was estimated to be eight to 12 hours for a two-person crew at $145 an hour for Mr. Ditte and $60 for a tech assistant. The current audio system’s ceiling-mounted speakers will remain in place.