WESTFIELD, NJ — While council members are still meeting via Zoom, they’re looking ahead to when they will be gathering in person at the municipal building.

The town council on Tuesday approved $52,820 to fund design and architectural services for a broadcast video system to be installed in its council chambers, a room that doubles as the town’s municipal court. A portion of monies for the project may be reimbursed through the federal CARES Act, officials said.

Town Administrator Jim Gildea told the council he anticipates having the upgrades installed next year, and he hopes they will be available when the council resumes in-person meetings.

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“We’ll have not just in-person capabilities but Zoom capabilities in the room even if we’re there in person, screens for both the council members and the public, cameras for both the public and council members, and many other options that will benefit both the court, planning board and board of adjustment,” Gildea said.

The municipality has submitted to have a portion of the monies for the project reimbursed through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, he said.

Last year, the council had approved an initial $17,400 for the firm Fraytak Veisz Hopkins Duthie P.C. Architects and Planners, of Trenton, to conduct a “review and evaluation of each meeting room,” at the municipal building including a review of mechanical, electrical and plumbing along with a review of its broadcast video system, according to the resolution then approved.

Before approving Tuesday’s design contract to that same architectural firm, council members heard from Mark Friedberg, who chairs the mayor’s technology advisory council, a volunteer group.

“We find that this upgrade to the council chambers — although we’re not sitting there now — is very long overdue, and we agree with the approach recommended in the contract, which speaks specifically to getting the details of the design on paper,” Friedberg said.

Once implemented the design will minimize paper processes at municipal meetings and help the town blend in-person meetings with online meetings, which the Westfield has adopted during the pandemic, he said.

“We would expect that the things that we’ve learned during the pandemic should be incorporated into the design,” Friedberg said.

Email Matt Kadosh at mkadosh@tapinto.net | Twitter: @MattKadosh

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