Merrickville-Wolford council passed a resolution at their last regular council meeting to allow municipal committees to meet virtually during the pandemic.
Council had already made the decision to reinstate the suspended committees at a previous meeting, but they were waiting for staff to amend the procedural bylaw to officially allow them to meet virtually. This was finally brought to council last week and passed. The procedural bylaw amendment will also allow council to meet virtually.
Deputy Mayor Michael Cameron noted that he thinks they should be considering returning to 7 pm virtual meetings to give the public more access to council. “I think that is something we should be considering, considering that we had originally suspended the 7 pm meetings because of the inability to host people in the chambers,” he said at the meeting. “Now that we’re moving to an electronic form, it would be nice if we could move back to the 7 pm meetings so that we could be more inclusive.”
Chair of the Recreation, Health and Wellness Advisory Committee, Katie Dickie, says she has put her team on standby while they wait for further direction from the municipality. As of last Wednesday, she hadn’t heard anything from staff about when and how they would like them to meet electronically. “We are eager to get going, as we have been for over a year,” she wrote in an email to the Times. Katie, who has been part of a group of residents calling for more transparency from staff and council, says it is a shame that council has not been able to fully embrace virtual meetings as many other surrounding councils have done. “[The] live streaming they are advertising is simply live audio that we are able to listen to…if you don’t work a 9-5 job,” she wrote. “They have literally shut residents out of any participation.”
Mayor Doug Struthers said that they will discuss moving back to evening meetings at the next council meeting. “We should bring that to the council table for council to have a discussion on that, and look at whether we go from the 2 pm meetings to the 7 pm meetings,” he said.