With the rollout of vaccines and more indoor activities slowly being permitted in the province, albeit with precautions, it is still up in the air how long it will be before in-person council meetings can return, say municipal officials.
Virtual meetings were quickly implemented in Chatham-Kent and elsewhere during the onset of the pandemic in March of last year and have been in place here ever since.
Initially, there were a few technical hurdles, including the varying online bandwidth in rural communities. However, the meetings gradually evolved from mostly audio-only to councillors’ faces now being visible on the screen. Staff presentations and council motions can also be seen.
While he has maintained that virtual meetings are necessary to deal with municipal business, Mayor Darrin Canniff said he’s eager to get back into the chamber when it’s safe to do so.
“Returning back to normal for our meetings, certainly I’m looking forward to that,” he said. “That’s a normal we want to get back to. Not sure exactly when that’s going to happen.”
The municipality will also consider the possibility of hybrid meetings in the future, which would offer the ability to hold a meeting during inclement weather, or to allow for the attendance of a councillor who may be out of town that particular day.
Municipal clerk Judy Smith said administration will return with an amended procedural bylaw, noting it tends to be done before an election year anyway.
She said this bylaw will cover various housekeeping matters, including those relating to council and its meetings.
“We’re looking at many things within the procedural bylaw to present to council,” she said. “Things such as how we will move forward, if there will be an option for hybrid meetings, how we conduct deputations in the future. We have to change some things because of the term of council, with the election coming up.
“I’m hoping to get that to council by September. And then hopefully council will give us some direction on how they want to proceed.”
The public can view council meetings at the following links: YouTube: www.youtube.com/channel/UCnCqH9glTEm2qIumbLmZqEg Facebook: www.facebook.com/yourtvck
Archived videos of council meetings can be found at: vimeopro.com/chathamkent/council-meetings
People who wish to speak about an item on the agenda can email the municipal clerk’s office at email@example.com prior to the start of the meeting. The clerk will verbally read out the written deputation at the beginning of the meeting.