BRUCEDALE – Guelph-Eramosa council will begin conducting council meetings on the video platform Zoom beginning Oct. 5, with an aim to returning to in-person meetings.
Council meetings have been held via teleconference since April 8, at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
After an informal request at its Sept. 8 meeting, clerk Amanda Knight presented to council on Sept. 21 four ways for council to hold meetings going forward:
- continue with teleconference meetings;
- use a video conferencing platform such as Zoom;
- hold in-person meetings; and
- a hybrid model, with some or all of council in chambers with the ability to accommodate Zoom and/or teleconference for others. The hybrid model also allows the public to observe the meeting via Zoom or teleconference.
Knight said the township has purchased tablets for councillors, and once they arrive and are programmed, meetings can be held via Zoom.
Councillor Mark Bouwmeester saw the options as a spectrum, with in-person meetings being the ultimate goal.
“But we can’t go to in-person yet,” he said. “Our first job is to keep people safe. But I think it’s time to move to video conferencing.
“The costs are minimal. Zoom is the logical next step.”
Mayor Chris White, keen to get back in council chambers himself, was assured by Knight the technology allows for some councillors to be in chambers, some to be on Zoom from home, and if Zoom doesn’t work, to participate by teleconference.
Councillor Louise Marshall said she prefers teleconferencing.
“I’m not ready to get back to public meetings,” she said, adding she’s not sure Zoom will work for her in Eden Mills.
Knight said staff is working to get audio capabilities in council chambers. This will allow meetings on Zoom from chambers.
“We’ll try Zoom (from home) and see if it works, and then councillors can move in to chambers if they like,” said White.
“This is not requiring anyone to go back to the office. We’ll see how this goes.
“And if there’s a major outbreak, we can stay at home and meet on Zoom. It will be a meeting-to-meeting scenario.”
In a follow-up email, Knight outlined the procedures for the next two council meetings.
On Oct. 5 and 19, she stated, the township “will hold a special meeting of council at 1:30pm to facilitate a public meeting via teleconference and then hold the regular meeting of council at 2:15pm to facilitate the regular meeting via Zoom.”