Jan Keiser, Homer Public Works director, testifies during the Homer City Council Committee of the Whole meeting on July 26 in the Cowles Council Chamber. (Photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)

Cowles Council Chambers ready for use

After 10 months of renovation work, the Cowles Council Chambers are ready for use.

The City Hall Cowles Council Chambers has recently undergone renovation to make the space more accessible and user-friendly. The Homer City Council met for the first time Monday in the new chambers since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

“In the face of the pandemic, the City saw an immediate need for a way to conduct meetings remotely. Zoom fulfilled that function on an emergency basis, but we recognize that hybrid meetings are almost certainly the wave of the future,” Homer Public Library Director and IT Supervisor Dave Berry wrote in an email to Homer News. “The City is growing, and there will be more and more demand for a system that can accommodate meetings in a variety of formats. We’re certainly in good company — anecdotally, every local government in the country seems to be working on the same thing at the same time!”

The renovations began in October 2020 and will continue for needed improvements.

Major updates include the expansion of the front dais, which can now accommodate the mayor, city council, city manager, city attorney and a city clerk if needed; the installation of new cameras and microphones to allow for in-person and online hybrid meetings; a new sound system that is ADA-compliant, allowing for better sound quality in the audience; four new display screens arranged around the council chambers for easy presentation sharing capabilities; and more. Additional upgrades will be made in the upcoming future.

“IT staff and the Public Works department have overcome extraordinary global shortages of labor and tools, and I tip my hat to everyone who worked on this project,” Berry wrote.

The renovation costs were appropriated by the city council through CARES Act funds in September 2020. Ordinance 20-63 (A) allocated $90,000 for the COVID-19 response and mitigation plan.

For more information, contact Berry, at dberry@ci.homer.ak.us.

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