BONNYVILLE – In a split vote, a motion to add monitors to each councillors’ workstation in council chambers was defeated on Feb. 28.
While some council members were all for upgrading the technology, other councillors were clearly hesitant to spend over $19,500 for electronic equipment that had not previously been factored into the 2023 budget.
Administration brought forward the recommendation because of the increased need to attend meetings and training virtually.
“This technology will also allow our agendas, delegations presentations... to be viewed more easily by both council and administration during council meetings,” explained Renee Stoyles, the Town’s general manager of Corporate Services.
Administration priced out the cost to add monitors to each council members’ workstation as well as both administration tables.
“The cost to install 11 monitors totals $18,583.15. If approved, this amount would be funded from the general operating reserve,” continued Stoyles.
Factoring in taxes, the equipment upgrade would have cost the municipality just over $19,500.
Administration acknowledged while the upgrade does not have a direct correlation to council's Strategic Plan, “installation of this technology increases opportunities provided online.”
Trying to find cheaper alternatives, councillors Byron Johnson and Neil Langridge offered other suggestions. Johnson suggested council members could start bringing in work laptops provided by the Town to regular council meetings.
“Instead of installing monitors, we all are provided with laptops – is it just possible for us to use our laptops instead of having permanent monitors? It would be a cheaper solution,” said Johnson.
In response, CAO Bill Rogers clarified that “The idea for the technology upgrade is not so much for councillors to have individual access to agenda packages, it's to have repeating monitors that display whatever is up on the big screens. And that can especially be relevant for virtual meetings when you have guests and there might be other things [on the screen].”
Langridge inquired if the large screens already located in chamber council could be relocated to be more visible for council, referring to how the screens in the MD of Bonnyville’s council chambers are set up.
“The monitors that are on the walls were not designed for council to look at, they were designed for people in the audience to look at and to see what's being broadcast on the screen,” said Rogers. “The idea for the monitor upgrades for council and administration is that council won't have to turn around and stare at the big screen. You'll be able to do one or two things at once and whatever is being brought in will be right in front of you.”
The CAO also explained that the specific monitors being considered are especially designed to tie directly into the chamber’s audiovisual system and can be linked into software such as the ClickShare. “Which is why it's more expensive than just buying 11 monitors,” noted Rogers.
Mayor Elisa Brosseau voiced her support for the monitor upgrades.
“Personally, I would appreciate the upgrade to our desks. I don't particularly like when we are in a professional meeting per se, and I have to get up and walk over to the screen to take a look at what's going on,” said Brosseau.
Coun. Brian McEvoy also shared his support for the upgrades. “One of the things we have to keep in mind is this is the next step in the evolution of technology... I think it will open us up to utilizing a lot more technology in the future because things will change. Even since we built this building, [there have been] significant changes in how we use technology.”
McEvoy made the motion that council approve the purchase and installation of monitors for council chambers.
In a split 3-3 vote, the motion was defeated. Councillors Kayla Blanchette, Langridge and Johson voted in opposition of the motion, while Mayor Brosseau and councillors David Sharun and McEvoy voted in favour of the motion. Coun. Phil Kushnir was absent from the meeting.