Santa Maria looking to upgrade city council technology to enhance community engagement

Santa Maria looking to upgrade city council technology to enhance community engagement

SANTA MARIA, Calif. — The Santa Maria City Council will consider a proposal tonight that will significantly upgrade the audio-visual equipment in council chambers.

If approved, Santa Maria city staff reports the new technology will greatly improve the broadcast and online streaming quality of meetings, as well as allow councilmembers, city staff, residents and other stakeholders to be able to engage with each other more effectively either in person on remotely.

The new technology would replace existing equipment that is antiquated and unreliable.

According to the city, the current equipment is 28 years old and has been expanded many times over the years in an effort to accomodate advances in technology, functionality and community requirements.

“The system itself is outdated,” said Mark van de Kamp, Santa Maria Public Information Manager. “We want to make it modern.”

After the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020, the city was forced to move City Council and other commission meetings strictly to an online format.

“The video option is proving to be very popular,” said van de Kamp. “There is an expectation from the public that we are able to provide Zoom meetings. People can participate remotely over their home computer, or perhaps even over their personal phone. They can participate and see what’s going on with their local government. We have held many meetings over the last several years with the Zoom option and it’s proven to be quite popular, so there’s an expectation that we’re going to be able to continue that. This upgrade will make sure that we have a reliable system that we can be heard, be seen and people can participate.”

Over the course of three years, meetings have returned to an in-person format, but at the same time the live online broadcast has continued, allowing community members to view the proceedings remotely.

Many complaints have been registered with the city regarding the online quality and reliability of the broadcast, particularly with the audio component.

“From time to time, we’ve experienced unfortunately some technical issues where the audio feed or the video feed is not reliable,” said van de Kamp. “It can even cut out and we don’t want that. No one wants that. We are going to fix that with this new system. The video and audio quality will be superior to what we have now. It will be reliable and also we will have some additions in the chamber.”

Van de Kamp said new equipment would provide the council chambers with a brand new modern system that will provide an improved experience for those in attendance in person, as well as online remotely.

Some of the new equipment would include larger, more readable television screens, new microphones and speakers, upgraded cabling, user-friendly control room, as well as other amenities.

“The overall experience for everyone who participates in our meetings will be better than it is now,” said van de Kamp. “For people who participate in person, the audio-visual will be improved. We’ll have some new monitors on the wall for them to watch what’s occurring when there’s staff presentations. Some times can take a while with, we’ll have staff reports or photos, and occasionally with videos and maps and diagrams of what we’re talking about and they’ll be able to see and hear better with the new technology that we’re able to offer right now.”

The cost of the equipment would be $316,805.06 and be paid from the American Rescue Plan Act, which has already been appropriated and allocated for the project.

Santa Maria City Council is scheduled to meet on Tuesday, April 18, 2023 beginning at 5:30 p.m.

A live online broadcast of the meeting will be available at the City of Santa Maria YouTube channel.

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