Thanks to County Judge Mark Riley for taking steps to expand the court’s capability and accessibility by enabling residents to watch court proceedings on the county website… another huge step toward total transparency in county government.
Citizens will also benefit from ‘sound proofing’ the courtroom in order to keep outside noise at a minimum.
The audiovisual system for the commissioners’ courtroom in Parker County’s historic courthouse should undergo some big improvements soon due to the court’s approval of $102,460 in upgrades Monday.
Commissioners have sealed a deal with Communication Concepts, a Fort Worth-based company, to tackle problems with sound volume and intelligibility and expand capability, allowing residents to watch court proceedings on the county website, for example.
Included are a new recording system, tablet-like laptops for commissioners, a brightly lit LED display screen, a high-resolution document camera at the podium as well as a camera in the back of the room, acoustic panels, plug-ins for the media and an assisted listening system for the hearing impaired.
An electronic voting option, that would display how commissioners vote on action items, was not selected as part of the package, Jeff Mauldin, president and CEO of the company, said.
To accommodate the upgrades, the Building and Grounds Department will work with Communication Concepts to redesign both the commissioners’ bench and the podium used by speakers to address the court, Judge Mark Riley said.
It will take four to six weeks to implement the new system, Mauldin said, including a training session for the court and county departments.
Mauldin said the upgrades will boost the quality of the county’s audio recordings and allow audiovisual inputs from DVD players and computers, originating from both the podium and the commissioners’ bench.
Taming the acoustics of the historic courtroom will be a challenge, said Mauldin, who claimed to be no expert on the historical implications of the improvements.
“It’s a great room, with high ceilings and a nice wood floor,” he said, “but the problem is sound keeps running around and around and never stops.”
Plans call for installing sound absorption panels on every spare wall space, he said. The panels can either blend in or contrast with the current space.
“We can deal with putting sound absorption in the room that will absorb all those little frequencies, but we’ll need some help from the historical people,” he said.
Riley said he would forward plans to the Texas Historical Commission when they are more fully developed.
Mauldin compared the commissioners’ new displays to those used by the City of Weatherford, flip tops with 15-inch LCDs that are engaged by a recessed mechanism built into the woodwork.
“Yours would be LED,” he said. “You press on the front, and it pops up. The normal position is flush with the top, but when you press the spring you’re looking at a display.”
The court approved the $2,994 high resolution document camera in a separate vote. It will display maps and other documents that are placed on it to all those who are in the room.
“If we’re going to spend the money to do all this other, we might just as well add this in there,” Precinct No. 1 Commissioner George Conley said.
“We’re making sure that whenever somebody brings a document that everybody can see it,” Precinct No. 3 Commissioner Larry Walden said, “not just handouts.”