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Council chambers work: $787K

Covers ADA, sound & video improvements

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Council chambers work: $787K

The Manteca City Council chambers’ video broadcast and sound equipment dates back to 1987.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

POSTED May 7, 2013 2:29 a.m.

It cost just under $30,000 in 1924 to build Manteca’s original brick two-story city hall that still stands across from the downtown Library Park.

Manteca’s elected leaders may decide tonight to go ahead with the next phase of plan to make the existing city council chambers compliant with federal handicap access laws as well as install 21st century technology for meetings.

The overall cost will come in at $787,000 or 26 times the cost of the land, construction and furnishings of the 1924 city hall that included a post office, police and fire headquarters, offices, council chambers and space that was rented out.

The American Disabilities Act requirements include modifications to the parking lot and existing ramps, installing wider doors that open automatically by a push button, as well as modifications to the actual chambers. The interior work would be done during the December/January furlough period to minimize disruption to use of the chambers. The exterior improvements could be in place by September.

During the 7 p.m. meeting at the Civic Center, 1001 W. Center St., the council will consider spending $176,104 for the purchase and installation of the first set of technology equipment. It will address issues with the aging public address system as well as the decades old cable broadcast equipment.

Staff is still working to finalize additional use of technology such as switching to tablets or laptops for council members as part of a citywide paperless agenda management system.

The aim is to allow the public clear access to city business as it is conducted by elected officials and department heads.

Watching Manteca City Council meetings on Comcast Cable Channel 97 can often be an exercise in futility thanks to the system put in place in 1987. You can see images but sometimes you can’t hear anything. And then there are times when the audio is clear but you can’t tell who is talking as the camera is focused on someone else.

It isn’t much better at times being a member of the actual audience.

The 25-year-old sound system often fades in and out prompting those in the audience to shout out “we can’t hear.” And if there are graphics or charts being shown on a screen, it is difficult at best for many to see them from their seats.

The goal is to get state-of-the-art video equipment in place that would enhance the cable presentation as well as the live streaming over the Internet of meetings. The plan is to have stationary cameras in place instead of ones that must be moved to allow for one operator to effectively run the entire system and provide proper feed to cable and web audiences.

 More than one multi-media screen is being considered plus the ability for the council and staff follow agenda reports on items being discussed using laptops or tablets. At the same time, staff reports could also be projected on multi-media screens for the audience to see.

Staff also wants to wire areas outside the chambers in hallways to allow overflow crowds to listen and see what is going on inside. In the past such as during the cantankerous meetings over the Big League Dream sports complex when it was originally proposed for Woodward Park as many as 70 people had to try to follow what was going on inside by crowding around one TV monitor set up in the hallway.

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