Council cancelled their regular meeting last night but at short notice, they scheduled two “special” meetings, one after the other starting at 3:00 pm. However, given the Covid-19 virus issue, they were held using video-conferencing with all Councillors plus Interim CAO Ian Davey and Town Clerk Brent Larmer also connected. It was then streamed so the public could view it, and I did! The technology worked quite well although there were a few glitches (that’s technical jargon for “malfunctions”). The sound was clear but cut out for about 20 minutes and the video froze a few times on individuals. The two meetings each had a single topic agenda – the first was to take advantage of very recent legislation allowing fully remote Council meetings and the second was to approve measures to provide residents with some financial relief as described in my recent Post.
Council meetings using Video Conferencing
Councillors were asked to approve a motion to allow Council to have meetings electronically (without limitations) providing that a state of emergency had been declared – which it has. The discussion was short with the only concern being raised by Councillor Chorley who asked about a provision for delegations and open forum questions. The response by Brent Larmer was that this would require separate conferencing sessions for each activity plus advance notice from anyone requesting to address Council. This is important since video conferencing may be in use for some time – maybe months. How a delegation would access the technology was not discussed but it would be necessary. Click the image above right to see a larger version of what the viewing screen looked like.
Financial Relief for Residents
As discussed in my recent post, Interim CAO Ian Davey proposed 6 items concerning transit, parking and taxes.
- Free transit to May 1 was approved.
- Councillors had a long discussion about the elimination of the unused extended accessible Transit hours and in the end voted to keep the bus available for the extra two (so far unused) hours.
- Free parking was approved even though Downtown will be mostly shutdown effective 11:59 pm Tuesday. Some of the problem was the limited capacity of the one man doing Bylaw enforcement who also empties coins from parking meters.
- Three proposals re Tax penalty waivers and tax payment deferrals were agreed as proposed
- Nicole Beatty asked that Green Wood Coalition be paid the $6K approved in budget discussions in February even though they had not yet come up with the details requested on how it would be spent (other than helping the homeless). After a long discussion, Ian Davey said that he did not currently have the resources to help tie down the details and the only way he could help out would be to simply write the $6K cheque. Council approved Nicole’s addition.
- Councillor Adam Bureau asked that Council recommend that landlords be asked to allow deferral of rents in needy cases. He accepted that Council did not have authority in this area but wanted a “recommendation” anyway. His addition was approved.
The Town participates in what they call an “Emergency Control Group” or ECG. As far as I can find out, the members of this group have never been named but they include the Fire Chief, the Mayor, the Police Chief, the Emergency planner and as many as 13 others. They currently meet daily and seem able to make fast effective decisions – such as today’s decision to close playgrounds (but not parks). However, they do not report to Council and certainly do not wait for a Council decision before acting. Councillor Chorley was concerned about this and asked for a better information flow to Council – and to the public. Mayor Henderson said that a daily bullet point report would be sent to Councillors and a “public inquiry line” will be set up in the next few days to answer questions from the public. [Update – stay tuned for updates on the ECG in the next day or so]
The next scheduled Council meeting is April 6 (changed to Committee of the Whole) and will likely also be held using video teleconferencing.