The District of Highlands is set to upgrade its community hall to make council meetings easier to attend both in-person and virtually.
At its Nov. 22 meeting, council voted unanimously to use COVID-19 Safe Restart funding to upgrade the audio-visual systems and acoustics of the hall.
Mayor Ken Williams said the upgrades will greatly improve the quality of virtual council meetings and reduce reverberation and echo within the space.
“The improvements are to make better communication between the public and council virtually and to make sure all speaking is more intelligible,” said Williams. “It’s driven by COVID, and the need to have a better working space to deal with the protocols.”
The municipality currently has $20,000 in an administrative contingency fund, but Williams said they do not expect to need all of it to complete the upgrades.
Staff estimates the technology upgrades will cost between $2,000 and $3,000, while the acoustic panelling is expected to cost around $10,000.
The technology upgrades would include a camera and microphone system providing a 360-degree view of the space and the ability to connect with video conferencing software such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams, and will be able to be upgraded with additional cameras if needed in the future.
Williams said the upgrades will continue to provide benefits beyond the pandemic, as council recently voted to make the community hall the permanent location for meetings.
“The funds are earmarked for COVID improvements, and this is something which is pretty much essential to improve our hybrid meetings,” said Williams.
As staff still have to complete the research and purchasing process, Williams said there is no specific timeline for the improvements. His hope, however, is they will be complete by the new year.