The Dunwoody City Council’s hybrid virtual and in-person meetings have had a variety of technical difficulties and audio issues — both for those watching the meeting at City Hall and in their homes.
The council started conducting hybrid meetings, where some members of the council sit at their City Hall desks while others tune in virtually, on July 13 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Council members at City Hall sit spaced away from each other and all wear masks. City staff members and members of the public can present or comment at the presenter podium in City Hall or via Zoom or email.
Residents can watch the meetings at City Hall, which has a socially distanced seating arrangement, or they can watch the meeting via Zoom or Facebook Live.
“With safety protocols and social-distancing measures in place in City Council chambers, we’ve been able to hold council meetings in-person and virtually,” city spokesperson Jennifer Boettcher said. “This hybrid approach makes the meeting more accessible, and we plan to continue this approach.”
During an Aug. 24 meeting, members of the council at City Hall had to tell city staff and residents who attended the meeting virtually to speak up because they couldn’t hear them in City Hall. Mayor Lynn Deutsch reminded council members to speak into their microphones so people listening virtually could hear them. Audio problems caused some minor delays in the meeting.
At the previous council meeting on Aug. 10, multiple virtual attendees complained about the audio while watching at home.
“Somebody do a sound check,” Dunwoody Homeowner Association President Adrienne Duncan said in the chat about halfway through the Aug. 10 meeting. “The echo is impossible.”
Duncan said she thinks the hybrid meetings are “an essential element of public discourse” during the pandemic, but she said the city needs to do some tweaks with the sound system to make sure everyone can hear.
Because the council members and presenters were wearing masks, the meeting was also hard to hear for in-person listeners during the Aug. 10 meeting. Presenters faced the council to speak while wearing a mask, which made them difficult to hear as well.
After an Aug. 10 meeting, Boettcher said the city’s audiovisual vendor was scheduled to help fix the problem Aug. 14. Boettcher said the council members were using microphones at the Aug. 10 meeting, but the city had technical difficulties with the mixer levels of the speakers and microphones.
“We are still working to improve the clarity,” Boettcher said. “Additionally, we have plans in place for improvements in the near future.”
The state Attorney General’s Office, which enforces the Open Meetings Act, has not received any complaints about hybrid meetings, spokesperson Katie Byrd said. She said if the office does receive a complaint, then it will investigate compliance with the OMA.
Boettcher said council members can choose whether to come in person or tune in online. All council members were in City Hall for the Aug. 24 meeting. Councilmember Joe Seconder was the only member of the council not physically present on Aug. 10, and Deutsch had difficulties getting his input because she could not see him or seemingly hear him well.
Because the rest of the council and some of the presenters are in the same room, the video stream of the meeting created an echo that made it difficult to hear the speakers, and the Zoom interface did not accurately show at-home viewers which person was speaking.
At the Aug. 10 meeting, there were problems showing city staff presentations on the screen at the computer at the City Hall speaker podium, so staff members tuned in virtually from various locations to show their presentations during the Aug. 24 meeting.