Glitches plague Penticton council meeting

City's $130,000 renovation to council chambers doesn't come without a few wrinkles

Portraits of Penticton’s past mayors weren’t smiling down as usual over proceedings at the city’s regular council meeting Monday.

In fact, they weren’t there at all, having been removed as council chambers undergoes updates to not only the technology, but structural and decorative renovations.

The technological changes didn’t come without a host of glitches, however, including microphone problems that plagued the entire meeting Monday, with microphones having to be turned off to allow others to speak. Mayor Dan Ashton admitted that he may have been the source of the problem.

“There are multiple people that can talk at the same time, but I came in here earlier and was going through a demonstration and may have pressed a button that has taken something offline for that function,” said Ashton.

“They will fix it and we will be able to have multiple people able to speak at the same time.”

However, the mayor became increasingly frustrated through the course of the meeting, having to remind councillors and staff to turn their microphones on and off, even at one point suggesting that in the future the microphones be live continuously.

Overall, the makeover has cost the city about $130,000, including the glitches. That’s $10,000 more than the planned budget for the makeover, which includes high-efficiency light fixtures, better wheelchair accessibility and changes to the heating/cooling system and better sight lines between council and the audience gallery.

“It is nice to be able to see the gallery without having to look over everything. A long overdue improvement,” said Ashton.

Though they brought some new frustrations, the changes alleviated other concerns, including making the streaming video broadcast online available to a wider variety of devices.

According to a City of Penticton press release, the new audio-visual system installed by Sensory Perceptions, a Penticton-based business, will allow “citizens to view the video stream on all technologies and devices and easily take part in the democratic process.”

Translated, that means that the streaming video of council in session, previously only viewable on desktop PCs, can be watched anywhere on a variety of devices, from smartphones to tablets as well as both PC and Mac computers.

The overall quality of the streaming as well as the sound for both those in chambers and online, should also improve with the new system, which includes more sensitive, noise-cancelling microphones and more speakers in the chamber.

The mayors’ portraits have been removed to make way for new artworks, courtesy of a joint program between the Shatford Centre and the Penticton Art Gallery, who will be rotating exhibits on a regular basis. First up, however, was the Shatford Centre, with artist Margot Stolz.

“I focused on the heritage buildings mainly and some of the past lives and things that have happened since the turn of the century,” said Stolz, whose encaustic (beeswax) mixed media images now adorn the west wall of chambers. “I transferred photo images from either the museum’s historical photographs or ones that I have taken myself and then I sort of draw back into it and paint into it with the beeswax.”

Stolz’ show is the first in a series, said Jane Shaak, director of the Shatford Centre, who expects it will be changed quarterly, with Paul Crawford, curator at the Penticton Art Gallery, to provide a new exhibit in April.


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