OGDENSBURG — At Monday night’s City Council meeting, more than 50 people were locked out of City Hall because the council chambers’ capacity inside had been met.
Seats in the chamber were blocked with orange tape to keep those attending in-person six feet from each other, and to make sure capacity did not exceed what’s allowed under COVID-19 guidelines.
Many people waited outside City Hall to be allowed in, one-by-one, to speak during the two public comment periods, but many more left.
The meeting was available on the city’s GoToMeeting webinar setup, but many have complained since the virtual meetings have started saying the audio isn’t adequate and often those who want to participate are hampered by technical issues either with the city or on the user end.
Near the end of Monday’s meeting, Councilor Michael B. Powers spoke about possibly moving to a different location.
“This needs to be put in a larger area to allow for more public forum,” Mr. Powers said. “They want to be heard and they are not being heard. They are not hearing either. I can’t tell you how many text messages I got saying, ‘I can’t hear anything,’ ‘Somebody’s tapping a pen.’ We need to move this to an arena or a venue where everybody can be heard.”
City Manager Stephen P. Jellie said moving the meeting place was a council decision, but he was working, at council’s direction, on making the current meeting place more compatible with virtual meeting technology.
“We awarded a contract to Big Apple Music in Watertown to install a better microphone and speaker system that will interface with the internet technology that we are using now so that people that are calling in will be able to be heard better by council and be able to hear council better,” Mr. Jellie said.
He said he had been working on the project for about a month, but was slowed by complications due to the pandemic.
The contract, he said, was for about $4,800.
The current system, Mr. Jellie said, is an in-building public address system that transmits to speakers in the room that are subsequently picked by a speaker phone hooked up to the computer running the webinar.
“During these times with the COVID, I think that we can move the meetings to OFA,” Councilor Daniel E. Skamperle said. “We have shared services, we can use one door to come in and out. Something needs to be an option.”
That plan, Mr. Skamperle said, would require cooperation from the school district, but he feels something needs to be done.
“So many people are not allowed to participate that want to participate in our current system here,” Mr. Skamperle said.
“I have been an advocate from the very beginning that we need a better location,” Councilor Nichole L. Kennedy said. “Cramming everyone in there is not right. Locking the doors to City Hall is not right.”
The next City Council meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Oct. 12 at City Hall.