Wednesday’s meeting of the Oklahoma County Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) and Public Buildings Authority (PBA) featured an unprecedented use of technology for the handling of regular business. The Board met using Webex software for video conferencing.
Present in the Boardroom were District 2 Commissioner Brian Maughan as well as staff from various departments. Attending by video were District 1 Commissioner Carrie Blumert and District 3 Commissioner Kevin Calvey. As this was new ground, for the most part the technology was a success, if a qualified one.
As a member of the press, I have the right to attend these meetings in person as long as the courthouse isn’t closed, but I chose to watch this meeting and the last from home via the County’s live stream on their YouTube channel.
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A consistent problem with watching County meetings that way is the lack of microphone discipline among some participants. David B. Hooten, County Clerk, is aware of this and can often be heard asking a participant to use the microphone at the podium in front of the horseshoe.
I have attended many meetings in person and several via YouTube and it is easy to miss comments and information on the stream for precisely the lack of use of the microphone.
Roll call necessity
At Wednesday’s meeting, the two Commissioners attending via videoconference were shown on a large television in the Boardroom. However, their audio was not fed into the room’s audio system, making it difficult to find a volume level to allow hearing them without the voices on microphone in the boardroom being uncomfortably loud.
The virtual meeting required a roll call for every item, which necessarily made the meeting last longer than normal. Coupled with ongoing technical difficulties, the meeting lasted a hearty one hour and twenty minutes (typically this meeting would have come in at the hour mark).
The meeting began with the Board agreeing that if technical difficulties should take the meeting offline for a time lasting thirty minutes or more, the Board would recess and reconvene at the same time the following day. Luckily for all involved and for the pressing business to be addressed, this contingency never took place.
Repeatedly throughout the meeting, Kevin Calvey, Chairman of the Board, would interrupt a speaker to declare that he and Blumert could not hear the speaker. The interruptions increased throughout the meeting. During the following meeting of the PBA, the problem became so pronounced that one presentation was moved from the Boardroom to another room so that the presentation could be made via Webex.
That portion of the meeting was all but silent for me as a reporter observing the meeting. Much of the presentation, which regarded the upcoming renovation of the exterior of the Investors Capital Building, was completely lost to me. I should note that one presenter was wearing a mask over his mouth and nose, which certainly didn’t improve his volume.
Again, in spite of those complications, the software seems to be a success overall. New technology uses always have kinks to be worked out. Perhaps a meeting of the BoCC and PBA is not the ideal time to see what works and what doesn’t, but there is no substitute for real-world use.
An overview of the business addressed:
- The logjam in Logan County will be cleared through a joint effort of Logan and Oklahoma Counties.
- Three steam valves in the County Jail will be repaired. This will not require the movement of any person incarcerated at the jail.
- Two contracts for the Sheriff to supply School Resource Officers to schools were approved; one for Francis Tuttle Technology Center, the other for St. Elizabeth Ann Seaton Catholic School.
- The PBA agreed to send an application for the renovation of the exterior of the Investors Capital Building to the Downtown Design Review Committee for approval.
The Board will meet again on the day of Passover.
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