Members of Cumberland council have been getting a good response to the recent online meetings they’re holding on Zoom in order to meet pandemic distancing guidelines.
They are now looking at making live video of meetings a regular part of conducting business.
This will come with a cost, and staff presented council with a report at the June 8 meeting outlining the teleconferencing system needed as well as a new table that is more adaptable to different types of meetings inside council chambers.
The estimate for a commercial-grade video system is between $10,000 and $15,000 for the council chamber.
“As expected, it’s quite costly for the quality that we need to have, to make sure people can hear and see council meetings,” said corporate officer Rachel Parker.
One issue is that, for now, council can continue with holding online meetings until the provincial emergency order is lifted at which point they have to return to in-person meetings. As well, Shaw is no longer recording the meetings in chambers for later broadcast.
Another consideration for council is that as they return to holding live meetings, they will still face restrictions on the number of people that can show up to a council meeting in person. One solution may be to look for a different temporary venue to hold meetings as well as other forums such as public hearings for rezoning applications.
“We’re still exploring options on that one,” Parker said.
While many people have been using online applications, these may come with restrictions such as maximum time for free options. Already, the move to hold online meetings with the technology currently available to the Village has come with costs. At the same meeting, staff indicated during a presentation on the financial effects of COVID-19 for the Village these last few months.
Members of council said they have heard positive comments about the online broadcast of meetings.
Coun. Jesse Ketler did express some reservations about the new table. The estimate from staff is about $10,000. The report to council notes that staff is looking for a table system that is adaptable to a number of different meeting scenarios and can replace the current “aged and worn” tables.
“I don’t really like change. I like our set-up, but I understand it needs to happen,” Ketler said.
There were also questions as to whether council members’ seats should be oriented toward each other or toward the gallery, though staff indicated the new table system would be adaptable. Parker presented council with two different layouts, with some councillors liking the open concept idea for a table.
“I like that it’s more visible to the gallery,” said Coun. Gwyn Sproule.
However, Mayor Leslie said the only time during meetings when council addresses the public directly is during question period at the end.
“When we’re talking, we’re talking to each other. We’re not talking to the audience,” she said, adding she could see pros and cons for each option. “We need to be able to see each other easily.”
At the end of the discussion, council passed a motion for staff to proceed with purchasing a video conferencing system and a new meeting table for council chambers, as well as amend the current Village financial plan to allow for the $25,000 total to come from the Emergency and Public Safety Reserve.