Is this thing on? Audio issues still plague Mattawa council

·2 min read

Mattawa council meetings are difficult to hear, an issue not lost on the council itself, or the town’s chief administrative officer, Francine Desormeau.

Nor is the point lost on the many who tune in for meetings, which are broadcast on the town’s Facebook page via Cisco WebEx, which also provides teleconferencing for the municipality.

Often during meetings, comments on that Facebook page begin flowing, with one resident recently stating, “it’s time to call the Ontario Ombudsman to complain what the heck is going on,” with the sound quality.

All councils are required by the province to make their meetings accessible to the public, as they occur. Covid threw a wrench into this, but municipalities adapted by streaming their meetings online via various platforms, or by allowing access by teleconference. Each option allows live accessibility to ratepayers.

Other comments appearing on the town’s Facebook page suggest remedies, with one person suggesting council could implement “different seating closer to the microphone” to improve the audio, adding that council “are doing their best” in difficult circumstances.

“Seems like Francine’s microphone is the only one working properly,” noted one resident, referring to the clarity of Desormeau’s voice in the videos.

And indeed, that is the case, as she sits closest to the camera which records both the audio and video for the meetings.

Recently, Desormeau explained that council was working to improve the sound system and secured two microphones and an additional speaker to help augment the audio.

Unfortunately, the hope offered by those new mics soon shattered, as “there was so much feedback in the room” once they were connected, Desormeau said, that they had to abandon that plan.

The additional speaker “also did nothing” to improve the sound, which returned them to square one.

The town is also looking into an entirely new system to replace the current camcorder setup currently in use. However, this system will have to be compatible with Cisco WebEx, the software enabling them to broadcast via phoneline and Facebook, which narrows options considerably.

The town is seeking advice as to how to remedy the issue, and in the meantime might consider removing the Facebook stream.

“We’re fine on Cisco WebEx,” during teleconferencing Desormeau said, “but the minute we stream on Facebook” is when the audio fails.

The meetings would still be available to listen to via teleconferencing, and those audio recordings would be archived on the municipality’s website.

Desormeau acknowledges that as is, the meetings “are upsetting people” due to the low-quality audio, assuring residents that herself and council are trying to remedy the issue, “going above and beyond” to remain open, transparent, and accessible to Mattawa citizens.

“I’m taking it to heart,” she added, referring to the complaints.

David Briggs, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, BayToday.ca

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