The Hillsboro City Council meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 15 opened up with normal administrative news and then City Administrator Matt Stiles told the Council about the bid to configure the Council room to allow for remote citizen participation and broadcasting of meetings.
“This installation would provide more COVID-19 protection for the public and improve transparency. The system is more advanced than the one put in by the County Commission but will provide better quality video and audio for users online and users in the room,” said Stiles.
Stiles explained that the bid, by Glanzer Pro Audio of Hillsboro, included a setup that would have a main monitor on the north wall and viewing monitors on either side of the table for users to monitor during the meeting.
“Each spot would be mic’d for sound. The unit would also have the capacity to add additional inputs for people who would bring in items for the council. If we ever needed to expand the system the control has the ability to add in many more cameras, mics and monitors,” said Stiles. “One note in the proposal, Chris quoted both mics on the table and a ceiling microphone. The ceiling mic is a much nicer setup. Chris had it from a previous install that changed direction and would upgrade our install using that for no additional charge.”
Stiles also explained that they would likely need to paint the walls to improve the picture signal as the wood paneling could create issues.
“If we move back into the council room with this set-up, I would like to see some plexiglass dividers and I’m wondering if that would have an impact on the direction you would want to go with the mics,” said Mayor Lou Thurston.
“Sure. From what I understand, the ceiling-mounted mics are digitally drafted to pick up the sound from the area that it goes to and that technology has developed a lot over the years as it used to not be so great. That would be better to cut down on paper noise and sounds like that,” said Stiles.
“So if there were public comments, it would pick up on things like that?” asked council member Renee Gehring.
“Yes, it would pick up on all that, and it would be integrated with Zoom so if someone wanted to come in and make comments on zoom, they could do that,” said Stiles.
Stiles explained that they would be able to fit all of the council members in and accommodate for all to be heard.
“For myself, when we moved into the Zoom world at the beginning of the COVID situation, I felt like it created a little bit more transparency and making us a little more available to people, plus making us able to record the meeting. Quite honestly, I like being able to go to the county website and look at if there are things that went on at the county commission meeting, I like being able to go back and watch what happened. I think there is a lot of value in that. I’ve seen the way the county handles that in-person and online participation and I think it goes smoothly. This is something I have really been dreaming about since becoming elected the first time,” said Thurston.
The package price is $23,237. The project will also require some electrical work for the room.
“We would submit the project to the direct aid portion of the SPARKS program. Currently we have approximately $40,000 allocated to Hillsboro. With the amount we have spent on the old
hospital ($15,535) this project would bring us to $38,772. We also need to be aware that while we have been allocated this money and the council room improvement is specifically COVID related, there is an outside chance that it could not be approved. At that point we would need to find funds for the project, most likely from the capital expenditures,” said Stiles.
“Do we have the funds for that?” asked Thurston.
“We do,” said Stiles. “It just may mean going without some other items.”
The Council voted and approved the project.
Stiles also told the council that the pre-construction conference for TCW’s fiber project occurred on Wednesday, Sept. 9. The project is scheduled for 157 days, weather permitting, starting on September 21.
“The marketing blitz will begin next week as TCW staff will be in town signing up business customers. Since the project is a partnership with the City, we will also be including a utility bill insert in an upcoming billing,” said Stiles. “This build will make Hillsboro one of a handful of Kansas communities with a gigabyte smart community designation. That is a huge deal when it comes to attracting and retaining businesses and workers. The install will be done in 6 phases starting with the downtown area and the connection to the loop on US 56. City Hall, water plant and electric/street shop will be in the first phase.”
In other business, the council:
- approved Mayor Thurston to serve as the voting delegate to the Kansas Power Pool (KPP) annual meeting on Dec 11. Stiles and Council Member David Loewen were voted to serve as voting alternatives.
- heard from the fair board regarding serving alcohol in the 4H building if it were to be used as a venue for weddings and other events. While details for it all are still be worked out, the committee does not want to move forward until they know that alcohol is an option. Insurance possibilities had been explored and other research done as well. The council voted in favor of an alcohol license.
- heard from Stiles regarding the city website. The city staff met with Baker Brothers on Friday, Sept. 11 and they are going to be working together on a new city webpage.
- Stiles explained to the council that the state approved the Marion County plan for the reimbursement stage of the SPARKS funding. The County Commission will need to approve the distribution of that money at their next meeting. Hillsboro is set to receive over $16,000 in reimbursement as part of that package. The additional items that have been spent at the hospital for Tabor students will be placed in the next round of direct aid funding.
- heard an update on the Community Plaza. Four companies submitted proposals for the design of the community plaza. The committee that has been working on raising money for the project will be reviewing the proposals in the next few weeks.
- learned that the KPP: Public Power week is starting on Oct 5 and will have an electric vehicle demonstration that day from 7:30-11 a.m. at City Hall.
- David Lockwood has completed his prospecting period with the fire department and the members have voted to approve him being added to the department. David is a city employee who operates the trash truck. David is one of a half dozen prospecting firefighters that the department is currently working with.