Port Alberni city council will continue to meet virtually via Zoom instead of holding in-person meetings.
Council discussed on Monday, Nov. 9 the possibility of moving to in-person meetings, following a new ministerial order that encourages local governments to return to in-person meetings if they are able to do so.
Director of Corporate Services Twyla Slonski provided a report to council on several facilities that could accommodate up to a maximum of 50 people while allowing for physical distancing. These facilities include the Capitol Theatre or the city-owned Echo and Glenwood Centres.
“For each of the alternatives provided, there are costs associated with that,” said Slonski. “Most of it has to do with improving audio-visual needs in order to ensure that meetings could continue to be livestreamed and recorded and available to those who cannot make it to the location.”
The cost would be somewhere between $30,000 and $50,000, depending which facility is chosen.
But with COVID-19 cases rising and new restrictions in place, council made the decision to continue holding Zoom meetings instead.
“I think, based on the current situation, the case counts continue to rise every day,” said Councillor Helen Poon. “We’re not out of this situation yet. I believe that we should continue to meet on Zoom, rather than put $50,000 or something into preparing facilities like Glenwood for council meetings. I think $50,000 would be much better spent on moving our strategic initiatives forward.”
Councillor Debbie Haggard admitted that she misses face-to-face interactions with council, staff and the public.
“But every day the numbers increase,” she said. “Personally I’m not worried about the expense, I’m more worried about the health. I’m not comfortable being in a room with 50 people, no matter what safety precautions we take.”
Councillor Cindy Solda suggested revisiting the topic after Christmas.