The attack of the coronavirus has led the Guilford County commissioners to hold meetings with no audience members in the room, but on Thursday, April 16, technology was supposed to allow speakers from the floor.
However, that attempt was a complete fail and there were other problems as well with the new system meant to make the home viewers feel included.
It was at the very start of the meeting when the board knew it was in for a rough night technologically speaking. In fact, anyone who wants a good laugh – or who just enjoys seeing unbelievably awkward moments – should go online and watch the opening of the Board of Commissioners’ April 16 meeting.
“This is a little different process for us compared to normal,” said Chairman of the Board of Commissioners Jeff Phillips, who apparently only had the first name of the first speaker from the floor – a man who was now a speaker from the phone.
“We’ll just call you Ross, if that’s OK, sir,” Phillips said. “Welcome this evening; can you hear us?”
Ross could not.
“Ross?” Phillips tried again.
A man waiting on the phone line could be heard saying to someone, “Well, this is ridiculous,” but apparently it wasn’t Ross.
“I think we hear you, sir,” Phillips said. “If you can hear me, you can please proceed to speak?”
A member of the clerk to the board’s staff called out for Ross as well, but to no avail.
After more painful attempts, Phillips moved on to the second speaker – saying that the board would come back around to Ross.
Phillips said the next speaker was Mrs. Dillard.
“Mrs. Dillard are you with us?” Phillips asked.
Mrs. Dillard was not with them.
Over the phone line came the sound of a woman clearing her throat.
Phillips said it sounded as though Mrs. Dillard couldn’t hear the proceedings, but a county staff member told Phillips, “Mrs. Dillard has not joined the meeting.”
Mrs. Tysinger was next. She had joined the meeting, Phillips was told.
“Mrs. Tysinger, are you with us?” Phillips said. “Good evening, Susan.”
Again, frustratingly, sounds came over the phone system, but there was no speaker to speak of. At this point, Phillips chuckled.
“Somebody’s on the line – I can hear them,” Phillips said. “Is that Mr. Gregory, by chance? Or Mr. Haywood?”
No, it was not.
Finally, Phillips gave up and asked county staff, “Shall we give you a little time to see if we can get our technology working properly?”
Phillips decided to move on and get to the meeting agenda items, so he called out to the commissioners who were participating by phone: Commissioners Kay Cashion, Carlvena Foster and Carolyn Coleman.
But, of course, there wasn’t a response from any of the three.
“We’re sort of striking out so far,” Phillips said. “But we’ll get there.
Eventually, the commissioners did get connected.
At the April 16 meeting, there were also problems when it came to showing the board’s votes to those viewing at home. At one point, for instance, on a 6-to-3 vote, the display for those watching online or on television showed the vote as a 7-to-2 decision – and the system gave one of the no votes to Commissioner Alan Perdue, who in reality had voted yes. Perdue had to step in and explain that he had in fact backed the motion.
The county is no doubt working out the kinks of the new system, but, from the looks of it at the April 16 meeting, a virus vaccine may get here by the time that happens.