Stow council waiting for tech upgrades before meeting in-person

Krista S. Kano
Akron Beacon Journal

Stow City Council continues to meet virtually due to the technological deficiencies in its chamber, and will begin to meet in person once repairs and upgrades are completed. 

Council president Sindi Harrison addressed the matter during the March 25 council meeting after several residents questioned why council was still meeting virtually.

"I feel there's been some misinformation put out there about why are not meeting in person and why we have not returned," Harrison said.

Under current but temporary Ohio law, public bodies are required to provide public access to any meeting or hearing that the public is entitled to attend and must ensure that the public can observe and hear the discussion of all members whether participating in person or electronically. 

"So, if a member of council or the administration wants to attend remotely, we have to provide accommodations for that," Harrison said. "We have very old microphones that are terrible and some projectors [in chambers]. That's it. It's been 20-plus years since those things were added. So we want to be able to meet safely, but we also want to, when we return, have the public be able to view meetings and we still can't do that right now."

Harrison and council vice president Jeremy McIntire have been meeting with members of the administration to determine what technology upgrades are needed, and those costs are included in capital improvement budget that is set to have its third and final reading on March 31. 

Coupled with much-needed technology upgrades, the chamber also requires drywall repair, window replacement and other maintenance, all of which would need to be completed prior to installing new technology. 

"My main thing [...] is I don't want to lose the transparency we have with residents and continuing to meet via Zoom allows us to have that," Harrison said. "I can see the stats on YouTube, and more people watch after the fact than live. So if we go back to in-person meetings without being able to stream, we're going to lose that group of residents. I don't want to take that away just for the sake of meeting in person." 

Reporter Krista S. Kano can be reached at 330-541-9416, or on Twitter @KristaKanoABJ.