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Grant County Board spends $6k to vote electronically at meetings

Will look at $6k microphone control system next month

POSTED October 6, 2018 10:12 a.m.
For nearly every vote of the Grant County Board of Supervisors since the county was created, it was a voice vote. Approving the new jail project? Voice vote. Same with the Administrative building.
With the exception of votes conducted to select officers every two years, and some committees, members of the board voted with their voices.
That will all change in 2019, as the board Tuesday approved purchasing a digital roll call voting system, placing the $3,995 cost of the setup in the 2019 budget, as well as the minimum of $2,000 for the purchase of tablets for every member of the board, as well as the county clerk.
In future years, the cost of the system will have an annual contract of $1,200.
Last month, the administrative committee of the board reviewed a demonstration of the system, which would have supervisors cast their votes from a prompt on a screen of an electronic device that they would have on their desk. The system can be configured so the votes of all supervisors would remain anonymous until the last vote was cast.
Supervisor John Beinborn said during the discussion at the full county board meeting that he had heard from supervisors who felt intimidated on how they would vote on some subjects.
“Some people are concerned votes are influenced before given,” county board chair Robert Keeney said during the discussion.
“If I want to vote one way, I will vote that way,” Greg Fry responded, unconvinced.
What did convince Fry was the ability to use tablets not just for voting, but also for information packets for the meetings, reducing the paper copies the supervisors receive. 
“It would move the board into a different century than what we are now,” Supervisor Carol Beals stated.
There are other local governments within the county which use tablets to electronically disseminate meeting packets. Potosi Schools has tablets for their board members, and displays packet information on a large screen.
Keeney noted there are 40 counties that use the electronic voting system.
An exact price tag on the first year costs was not known at the meeting. In reviewing proposals for both the roll call system, and microphone control system, IT Director Shayne Drinkwater had suggested purchasing cases to protect the tablets, as well as a dedicated access point for the devices to connect.
Drinkwater did not attend the meeting so a detailed breakdown was not available for the board to see.
Drinkwater had options up to $4,385, which also included a laptop for the county clerk to handle control of the system.
Also proposed was a microphone system control, which would turn on and off microphones in the room, automating a line for supervisors to speak on a topic, with control in a laptop held by the board chair.
That system was $5,995 for installation and the first year, and an annual contract of $1,800 for subsequent years.
Some liked the idea of the microphone system, if only to upgrade the current system, which has trouble picking up voices of the board. 
The current system includes a digital recorder for meetings, but County Clerk Linda Gebhard uses a personal recorder at the front of the meetings for note-taking purposes, which picks up sounds better than the current digital recorder.
The board voted in favor of the new voting system, with only Dwight Nelson and Robert Scallon in the negative. Lester Jantzen, Mike Luerance, and Roger Guthrie were absent from the meeting.
The board wanted to see more of a presentation, and numbers on the microphone control system
During the demonstration, it was touted to have dedicated devices for voting for security reasons, as well as having them in the room during the vote. There was no discussion on how to handle if a supervisor accidentally left their device somewhere, not having it for a vote or meeting.
In other business, the board got an update on the Community Services Building project at the county farm property. Brad Bierman from Epic Construction informed the board that the masons would be done with their work this week, that ceilings would start to be installed in the building, and curb and gutter was being poured as part of fall landscaping work.
Bierman also had $35,100 in change orders to the project. That amount involved three different items.
The first was to deal with excavating and removing a former water tunnel that was part of the previous Orchard Manor complex that was razed and buried on the property. That called for $13,478 in site work for its removal and fill.
The second was a demolition item for the former laundry building, which had been used by the Lancaster Association of Churches Life program for the previous decade. The cost of its razing and burying would be $7,500.
Finally, there was $14,122 in additional wiring to connect equipment the board approved last month, which was not in the plan originally.
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