Thanks to the hard work of Lincoln City’s Information Technology Department (IT), things will look a lot better to viewers of city council and planning commission meetings.
The antiquated audio visual system is being replaced with a new set of digital components. While admitting they can’t make the meetings more interesting, Director of IT Tony LaSoya said, “We will be broadcasting in high definition and be able to hold a more modern meeting.”
He estimates that through the hard work and relentless searching for equipment by his staff, the city has saved over $100,000 compared to sending the project to outside vendors.
“We know that we work for the taxpayers of this city and are very cost conscious,” LaSoya added.
Explaining the difficulties of the old audiovisual system, he said,
“We started having failures in the equipment that we couldn’t replace. The stuff was 20 something years old and it got harder and harder to find equipment to piece it back together, so we decided that it was time to modernize. During covid people got used to using Zoom and the equipment we had did not support hybrid meetings.”
According to System Administrator David Twigg when asked what equipment was failing, he replied, “On our cable channel four broadcast we had a hard drive system called Latronics that was bought in 2002.”
“1998.” Corrected LaSoya.
“It just died one day,” continued Twigg. “We were able to find a replacement for it.”
“On eBay,” interjected LaSoya, to sad laughter from both of them. “We bought two of them and sent one off for repair. And we had issues with IQM2 which does streaming and allows people to view live meetings.”
“The system we had from the 90s was built to stream meetings onto analog cable channel four,” explained Twigg. “But as we started adding more and more digital components, we had to add in more analog to digital conversion systems which led to more harm in the sound. Same with the video degrading because it had to be converted so many times to feed these different devices.
Think of old cassette tapes;” he continued. “The more you would record over or play them, the sound quality would erode and you would get more hiss.”
“There were too many potential pieces that could fail.” Said LaSoya. “Instead of having a single point of failure, we had many points of failure that would take hours to troubleshoot. We also had no documentation on the old system so it was difficult to maintain.”
Thanks to the skill of the city’s IT team comprised of LaSoya, Twigg, and System Administrator Bill Wyman, they were able to not only upgrade the system but make it modular.
“If the mixer, which brings in the audio, or a camera would fail to function, we can just plug in another without starting all over,” said Twigg.
“We’re not stuck with a static solution that has no flexibility,” added LaSoya.
What will viewers notice about the new technology?
“A clearer picture and better sound; not just in person but also via Zoom. We also have new monitors for the live audience to better view proceedings. We’ve added a Promethian (interactive display monitor) that will allow councilors to see presentations,” said LaSoya. “And because it’s on wheels, it’s available for other departments to use if needed.”
“And thanks to David’s thoroughly documenting everything, we are leaving future technicians in a better position than we were,” LaSoya said.
And the cost of all this new equipment? While no hard number is available until the system is finished for its Jan. city council meeting debut, LaSoya estimates they spent “about 50 grand.”
LaSoya gives credit to Joe Sadony of Deschutes county for, “giving us tons of information. We kind of modeled what we’re doing here on what they had done.”
He also credits his department’s involvement with the Oregon Association of Government Information Technology Management, “we get together twice a year and share information. They are a great resource.”
On Twigg’s contribution, LaSoya says, “David, he’s amazing. (Then turning to Twigg) This is the first big project I’ve given you and you knocked it out of the park.”
“We’re a good team.” said LaSoya.