Like many local governments, Bay Village, Ohio, couldn’t stop serving its citizens when the pandemic struck. It also couldn’t continue meeting like it used to. And like many, many local governments, it needed an easy-to-use technology solution — fast.
At first, in the interest of social distancing, the Bay Village City Council held its meetings online via Zoom. Suddenly, many more of the town’s 16,000 residents began attending. When it was safe to hold meetings in person again, it was decided the council would stream its sessions over Zoom, using technology from conferencing pioneer Konftel.
“In the past, we usually had very few residents at our council meetings,” says Bay Village Director of Finance Renee Mahoney, who was charged with quickly finding the right solution to enable virtual council meetings. “The first time we streamed a meeting we had over 70 watching. It’s worked out very well.”
Konftel Conferencing Solutions to the Rescue
The Bay Village City Council already had experience recording audio of its meetings for later publication. But it quickly determined the audio wasn’t sufficient for an engaging, interactive live stream. Not to mention, it didn’t include video.
“Our existing recording equipment was more expensive than the Konftel solution and not as good,” Mahoney says.
Bay Village installed a pair of Konftel 800 conferencing phones at either end of the council’s dais and a Konftel Cam50 pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) camera mounted in the back of the room. The two Konftel 800s are daisy-chained together to maximize coverage and, along with the Cam50, are connected to the council room’s PC through Konftel’s unique OCC Hub, which requires a single USB cable to enable audio, video, and control over the entire system. A pair of Konftel PoE Injectors deliver power to the Konftel 800 devices over Ethernet, so no separate power cables are required.
“It all works together nicely,” says Mahoney. “With the Konftel products, I just plug it in, and it works. We love that it’s easy.”
Mahoney operates the system during council meetings, including the PTZ camera, which she can use to zoom in on certain speakers, zoom out to show the entire council, or pivot to show presentations on the council’s projection screen.
“The Cam50 is especially useful because I can zoom in and out using the system’s remote,” she says. “The camera quality is excellent, as are the Konftel 800s’ microphones. They pick up everything. We get feedback from Zoom users that they’re able to hear everything in our meetings clearly.”
The Konftel 800 conferencing systems use the company’s unique, full-duplex OmniSound® HD audio technology for powerful, crystal-clear sound in all directions. Each phone’s three digital MEMS microphones with beamforming sound pickup and processing, plus powerful integrated speakers, provide rich, distinct audio to all online participants while at the same time ensuring council members can clearly hear comments from residents joining the meeting via Zoom.
In fact, the council’s longtime clerk still uses the existing system as a backup to record archival audio, “But she needs to refer to the Zoom recordings from the Konftel system because the audio is much clearer,” Mahoney says.
Virtual Conferencing is the New Normal for Municipalities
Konftel Regional Sales Director Peter Gasparro says many local government bodies are in the same situation as the Bay Village City Council. They need an easy-to-deploy conferencing solution to support virtual meetings — now and in the future.
“At first, this made sense as a pandemic solution, and we found that many other city councils were looking for the right conferencing technology,” Gasparro says. “But now they see it as a new way of operating. Konftel’s conferencing solutions have become an important part of their new normal precisely because they’ve increased engagement and made it easier for people in their cities and towns to collaborate.”
Gasparro, who is based near Bay Village, was on-site to demonstrate the system’s capabilities to Mahoney’s team and assist with installation. Bay Village also acquired a Konftel 300Wx wireless conference phone and a 4K resolution Konftel Cam20 camera with a wide, 123-degree field of view so it could take the show on the road. The council started by placing the mobile solution in a conference room, but soon began using it to facilitate collaboration away from city hall.
“We often use the Konftel 300Wx and Cam20 for remote training,” says Mahoney. “We were just over at the police station and it was easy to pack up the Konftel phone and camera, hook it up to our laptop, and start collaborating from the station.”
Gasparro says Konftel is seeing increased demand for similar capabilities in court houses, fire stations, and other municipal facilities.
“They all say the same thing,” he explains. “They need something easy to use and platform-agnostic. Whether an organization uses Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, or some other online service, Konftel conferencing solutions come ready to support their virtual meetings.”
In Bay Village, when the council debated opening the town pool, it attracted its largest virtual audience. Not every meeting draws as well, but Mahoney estimates the Konftel-enabled solution consistently attracts about five times as many attendees as before the council started holding its meetings online.
“Other cities should consider broadcasting meetings online,” she says. “It’s so simple. This is our new normal.”
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