Whitehorse city staff advised council Dec. 4 to award a $149,000 contract to Vancouver-based Applied Electronics Limited to upgrade the audio-visual equipment the city uses to broadcast and close caption its meetings.
The equipment is outdated, with some components, such as the closed captioning system, being up to 15 years old, said Michael Reyes, manager of business and technology systems. Many of the components have been replaced or repaired “as they failed” resulting in a system that functions poorly overall and is in need of total replacement.
The city keeps recorded versions of its meetings online for people to view. The video feed from the Dec. 4 standing committee meeting was so grainy and poor that it is almost impossible to make out the faces of people speaking.
Coun. Betty Irwin said that the audio-visual equipment had been an issue for a long time, most recently during the Lion’s Club televised auction when “the feed went down many, many times.”
Fifteen companies showed interest in the project, Reyes said. Applied Electronics was the only company that actually placed a bid, however, and its proposal is within budget.
“The evaluation team unanimously agreed that (Applied Electronics) has the knowledge, skills and experience to complete the contract,” Reyes said.
Council wanted to know why there were so few actual proposals. Reyes said his “best guess” was that it’s a “logistics issue.”
“When they see the level of support we require, they see this might be outside of their scope,” he said.
That required level of support was a concern for some councillors, because Applied Electronics has no local representative.
“What if something goes wrong in the middle of a meeting?” Irwin asked. “Who do we call?”
Reyes said if something happens to the system that cannot be remotely repaired, the company would have to fly someone in to repair it, at a cost to the city that has not yet been negotiated.
Staff don’t anticipate an immediate concern because the product will be under warranty for a year. The equipment, which will be managed “by a control tablet” will have a computer backup, Reyes said.
“What we are relying on for the first year is the warranty,” Reyes said. “We don’t expect the equipment to break down that much.”
“We don’t anticipate that the system will be malfunctioning … but we will be doing stress testing.”
“This is people’s main source to gather information at this level of government,” said Coun. Samson Hartland. “Can you guarantee there will be no downtime going forward?”
Reyes said that “depended on how the system was designed,” but that the perfect system would have a redundant failsafe, which was not currently planned or budgeted for.
“It’s disconcerting to know there are no redundancies built in,” Hartland said. “But I respect the budget we have to work in.”
Coun. Roslyn Woodcock wanted to know if there were numbers on how many people actually watched the televised sessions. Those numbers were not immediately available.
“Under or over 10,” Woodcock pressed. “That’s all I’m looking for.”
Reyes answered it was definitely more than 10.
A moment or two later, Mayor Dan Curtis said he had just received a text from Premier Sandy Silver, assuring council that he, at least, was watching.
Council will vote on the matter at the Dec. 11 regular meeting.
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