By Cole Parkinson
With COVID-19 restrictions loosening across the province, the Municipal District of Taber is following suit.
Starting in early June, M.D. administration brought forward several different ways to start opening things back up in the municipality and requested council start adopting a plan on how to continue to move forward.
“Administration is suggesting that council determine/adopt a general plan moving forward as it relates to how they would like to conduct council and council committee meetings moving forward with the proposal of initiating said plan in the beginning of June 2020,” reads administration’s report to council at their regular May 26 meeting.
Since early March, council had been conducting all council and committee of council meetings through the use of Zoom with audio streaming available through YouTube.
Moving forward, administration proposed that a combination of both a continued use of Zoom and in-person participation could be used.
“From a social distancing perspective, I think there is sufficient room and sufficient setups that we can look at a trial here in the near future so people can social distance when they come to council meetings. At the very least from council participation at least. I do want to make it very clear that we can easily make the continued online Zoom conferencing available for those that would prefer that. It is easy to do a combination model,” said CAO Arlos Crofts.
Delegates for each meeting can also decide on in-person or online as long as safety requirements are fulfilled. With a number of public hearings set for mid-June, council questioned if those, too, would be subject to the option of in-person or online.
“I think we should provide a combination because by then, we will be in the third week of June and I think we’ll be open and have the council chambers set up in a social-distanced way that people can come in or they can call in or Zoom. I think we can accommodate both,” replied Crofts.
Many on council agreed with moving forward with the option to attend in person or through Zoom and they pointed to the success they have had so far from doing all-digital council meetings.
A motion was carried by council unanimously to establish the proposed approach as its initial governance relaunch plan. The M.D. of Taber administration office has re-opened to the public to attend to pay bills and carry out their business as needed. Safety measures have been put in place and social distancing will still be respected.
Council and council committee meetings are also now accessible for the public to attend in person, however, current social distancing and mass gathering requirements will continue to be respected.
Another portion needing discussion was around live streaming their meetings in the short-term as well as the long-term.
“In the short-term, we are streaming this through YouTube and in a way Bryce (Surina, director of IT and GIS) and I would refer to as ‘overnight technology.’ It was put together really quickly and it isn’t necessarily the most efficient way of streaming. So if it council’s intent and desire to carry on with live streaming, then we will want to try to streamline what we are doing so it is not so onerous in the background,” continued Crofts.
Discussion around long-term live streaming of meetings was last had in November 2019 where council discussed the benefits of implementing an All-Net system to live streaming all meetings moving forward.
Administration maintained there would be room in their budget moving forward if council wanted to proceed with that option.
A motion to have administration investigate further live streaming and bring it back to for the next meeting was also carried unanimously.