Routt County spending $125K to upgrade hearing room, improve virtual meeting experience |

Routt County spending $125K to upgrade hearing room, improve virtual meeting experience

The historic Routt County Courthouse in downtown Steamboat Springs. Routt County commissioners have approved funding to improve accessibility in their hearing room. The changes will include the addition of three new displays, a microphone mounted in the ceiling, wireless microphones and a new set of speakers.
Dylan Anderson/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Routt County commissioners approved last week spending $125,000 to upgrade technology in their hearing room.

The new equipment, along with new furniture purchased for the room, is supposed to improve the experience for those watching meetings online and those who choose to attend in person.

“This is our final big purchase for the upgrades that include the desk, new monitors,” said County Purchasing Director Julie Kennedy. “It will be very user friendly.

Kennedy said county officials opted to go with the same company installing audiovisual equipment at the county’s new Health and Human Services building.

The upgrades include three new displays — one approaching 100 inches — a microphone mounted in the ceiling, wireless microphones and a new set of speakers. These improvements are scheduled to be installed in 2023 after the new building is finished.

“This is an interactive system, so we can use it for training and really change the use of this room,” County Manager Jay Harrington said. “It’s a really, really big upgrade.”

Prior to the pandemic, commissioners would simply sit across a 4-foot wide table from those presenting to them. When meetings were relegated to a virtual status during COVID-19, the county adjusted to accommodate meetings held entirely online. 

Since returning to the hearing room — which at one time was the courtroom of the historic, soon-to-be century-old courthouse — commissioners have used a pair of 360 degree conference cameras referred to as Owls. Other local entities such as the town of Hayden use the same technology to broadcast their meetings.

People have been able to participate in meetings virtually by being displayed on a large TV on wheels. But the technology isn’t perfect, delivering a somewhat inconsistent online experience, especially when someone is speaking at a lower volume.

The use of the Owls also restricted the ability to amplify sound in the hearing room, which could make it difficult to hear for the in-person audience, especially if someone was hearing impaired.

“We don’t often have people in here who need that, but it’s an accessibility issue,” Commissioner Beth Melton said. “There have been occasions where there’s someone sitting here that is a soft talker and there somebody in the audience who really can’t hear and I just think it’s a fundamental access issue.”

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