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FROM: ASSISTANT CITY MANAGER/CITY CLERK
DATE: MAY 16, 2006
SUBJECT: BROADCASTS OF CITY MEETINGS AT HESSE PARK
Receive and file this report.
Prior to the renewal of the City’s cable television franchise agreement in late 2000, volunteers from the Palos Verdes Amateur Radio Club operated the cameras and mixing board at City Council meetings. The arrangement of the equipment at that time included two manual cameras positioned in the audience and a mixing board stationed behind a partition wall in the seating alcove on the south side of the room. All of the audio and video equipment was stored in a closet when not in use and then removed and set up for the meetings.
As part of the franchise renewal agreement, Cox Communications took over the responsibility of recording both City Council and Planning Commission meetings in 2001 and installed all new audio and video equipment, including three robotic cameras mounted to the ceiling in the multi-purpose room at Hesse Park. At Cox’s request, the closet was turned over to the cable company and converted into a permanent audio/ video control room so that the equipment would not have to be set up and broken down for each meeting to reduce wear and tear on this sensitive equipment.
Cox is now proposing to modify the equipment set up for broadcasting City meetings. While the robotic cameras would remain in place, the cable company wishes to partially reinstate the pre-2001 configuration by rewiring the facility so that the mixing board is set up for each meeting in the seating alcove behind the dais or in a corner of the lobby and then removed and stored when not in use.
In 2003, the City received a complaint from Cox that there was a mold problem inside the control room that may affect the health of its employees. In response, the City immediately commissioned an environmental study of the facility. The study conducted in 2003 found that the mold spore counts in the control room were actually lower than the baseline count taken outdoors. However, the study also found that there was some mold amplification in other areas of the building, including the multi-purpose room. Pursuant to the consultant’s recommendations, the City purchased a HEPA air filter for the room and required the City’s janitorial service to use vacuum cleaners equipped with HEPA filters.
Earlier this year, the City received a second complaint from the cable company stating that the alleged mold problem had increased following flooding of the building in February 2005 and indicating that this could be an employee health and safety concern. Again, the City hired a professional consultant to test the facility. The most recent study conducted in March 2006 found that all interior samples, which included the control room and the multi-purpose room, yielded mold concentrations that were equal to or below the outdoor sample. In addition, all interior samples matched uniformly with the exterior sample and no “unique” spores were identified in the interior samples. Finally, all samples yielded concentrations that were below the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) recommended levels for interior spaces. Comparison of the two studies would indicate that mold spore concentrations in the building have improved during the last three years and are currently within acceptable levels.
Because the test results did not indicate that there is a mold problem in the building, the City’s consultant suggested that the control room also be tested for Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) as another potential source of the concern due to the amount of electrical equipment located in this relatively small space. The test for VOCs was conducted during the live broadcast of the March 21, 2006 City Council meeting. The test detected low levels of six different VOCs, however, all results were below National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommended exposure levels for these chemicals.
Regarding the flooding that took place at Hesse Park in February 2005, the water inundation had minimal impact on the portion of the Multi-Purpose Room near the control room. The City also had a professional firm at the property within 24 hours to remediate the situation, including water extraction from the carpets, treatment for bacteria, air blowers and so on. The results of the March 2006 study appear to bear out the fact that this incident did not have a negative affect on conditions inside the building.
While the second study was being completed, Cox submitted photographs to the City of the inside of the control room as “proof” of the alleged mold problem. Although the photographs are not scientific evidence that there is a mold problem, they do show that the space is in poor aesthetic condition. This is understandable because when the video equipment was installed in 2001 Cox required that access to the control room be restricted due to the sensitivity of the audio/video equipment. Therefore, the City has not provided janitorial service inside this room for the last five years, lest we be held responsible for damaging the equipment in some manner. However, staff’s response letter to Cox indicated that the City was very willing to work with the cable operator to have its staff temporarily remove the equipment from the control room so that the space can be thoroughly cleaned, water-sealed from the inside and repainted. The City offered to make arrangements to provide access to Cox’s own cleaning service to perform routine maintenance inside the room on go forward basis. The City also indicated that it would be amenable to the possibility of installing a dehumidifier inside the room or adding additional vents in the control room door to further address the cable company’s concerns.
Staff also met with Cox representatives to discuss possible alternative locations for the audio/video equipment within the Hesse Park facility. While staff has attempted to be sensitive to the needs for the cable company and its employees and has taken steps to address the cable company’s concerns about the working environment at Hesse Park, in the absence of more specific professional input regarding employee health and safety concerns Cox has expressed, it is extremely difficult for the City to determine what additional tests might be required to pin point the cause of his complaint and thus identify an appropriate solution, if any. In light of this situation, staff was reluctant to move the audio/video equipment to another location in the building due to a lack of evidence at this point in time that such an effort would resolve the issue. Further, without understanding the true cause of the concerns, there is no assurance that moving to another location will eliminate the cause or will result not in more significant problems.
The cable operator has alleged that there is a mold problem in the audio/video control room at Hesse Park. Other than recently submitting inconclusive photographs of the inside of the control room, the cable operator has not provided the City with any other evidence that a problem actually exists. Nevertheless, the City has attempted to address the cable operator’s concerns by:
- Commissioning professional environmental consultants to test the facility in 2003 and again in 2006.
Despite the City’s attempts to address Cox’s concerns, staff received a letter from the cable operator’s legal counsel dated May 8, 2006 (see attached) indicating that effective immediately Cox will no longer permit its employees to work inside the control room at Hesse Park. In the 2000 Franchise Agreement, Exhibit E (Support of Local Cable Usage) states that Cox will provide, at its sole expense, “all equipment necessary to cablecast programming live from Fred Hesse Jr. Community Park,” as well as “all necessary and competent manpower to produce quality cablecasting of City Council and Planning Commission meetings on a regular and consistent basis.” Therefore, until the matter is resolved, City meetings held at Hesse Park will be recorded by an operator using a single camera stationed inside the multi-purpose room and connected to the mixing board in the control room via cables. This arrangement was implemented at the Planning Commission meeting on May 9th, and will affect the Community Leaders’ Breakfast on Saturday, May 13th and the regular City Council meeting on May 16th. Staff is currently working with Cox to rewire the multi-purpose room to partially return to the pre-2001 configuration where the mixing board will be set up for each meeting and then removed and stored when not in use. The configuration of the dais may need to be modified slightly if the mixing board is set up in the seating alcove to allow the partition wall to be partially closed to conceal the equipment during the meetings. It is uncertain what modifications could be required if the mixing board is set up in the lobby. Staff will provide Council with updates as this matter is brought to conclusion.
Letter from John P. Spalding, Cox Communications, dated My 8, 2006