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Cumberland council considers meeting options for future

The village has returned to in-person meetings and updating procedures
Cumberland council was holding meetings on Zoom until recently, and the village has been looking at options for meetings in the future. File image

Council has been reviewing its policies and practices around electronic meetings.

They have recently returned to in-person meetings in council chambers but are also set up for video broadcasts since the pandemic started.

As a result, they are looking at amendments to the procedures bylaw.

Corporate officer Rachel Parker did caution council that they would be making decisions that, with an election a year away, they may be making decisions that affect future councils as well as the current one.

“They’ll apply to this council, but they’ll also be applying to future councils,” she said. “It’s got to work for others as well.”

The staff report included a table of items. One topic was a provision to allow for electronic meetings, as has been the case during the pandemic. One of the questions surrounded the process for calling an emergency meeting, whether it can be called around a state of emergency or by council resolution, meaning it would be planned and scheduled ahead of time.

One subject was a provision to allow for some attendance by video for council members, particularly if sick, without affecting quorum rules that allow a meeting to proceed.

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The suggestion has initially been to limit this to one council member, but the feeling was they could increase this to two members. Mayor Leslie Baird said they had a limit of one in the past but raised the scenario of two council members’ being sick.

“I’d really appreciate it if they were on electronically,” she said.

Parker noted they had not identified any reasons for electronic participation in the wording.

“We haven’t included any restrictions,” she said.

Parker did say having some members on screens might pose problems for the chair when running the meeting.

There was also some question around late items, particularly for public submissions on time-sensitive issues. The plan is to set the deadline for 2 p.m. on meeting day, as these late items can present a challenge for staff in getting ready in time for the meeting if they receive a number of submissions.

“It’s a bit of a time crunch,” Parker said.

Chief administrative officer Clayton Postings added if the issue is not time-sensitive, the village can move the item to another date.

“We try to encourage them to have this in on time,” he said. “We are aware things do come up.”

Other measures in the staff report include delegation policies through electronic means, receipt of questions limits per person, and a start time of 4 p.m. for closed portions of meetings.

Council approved the first reading of the bylaw for the amendments.

At a meeting on Sept. 7, council directed staff to prepare amendments to the procedures bylaw, including provision for declarations of states of emergency or severe weather, as well as for the mayor to call or cancel certain meetings and the allowance of electronic participation at meetings.

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