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Before switching to online meetings, town council practised social distancing at one meeting on March 16 as restrictions were first beginning introduced against the Covid-19 pandemic. Town staff and council members – including, left to right, Mayor Kandis Jameson, Coun. Steve Anderson and Coun. Jeff Groenewegen – were strategically seated apart from one another in council chambers.
NNSL file photo

Hay River town council will continue with online meetings, at least for the time being.

There had been some indication that in-person council meetings, which have not taken place since mid-March when Covid-19 restrictions began, might resume on July 28.

“There’s been some discussion there,” said Glenn Smith, the town’s senior administrative officer. “It looks like we’ll be continuing to operate now through the Zoom meetings.”

Smith said council would consider an in-person meeting only if there is a specific need to do so, which might involve something like the sharing of documents.

“But for the time being it sounds like through the summer period at least that they will continue to use the Zoom meetings, which are available for viewing by the public on the Town of Hay River You Tube channel,” he said, noting that means into August.

Smith added that, even if in-person meetings resumed at council chambers, they more than likely wouldn’t be open to the public.

“And given some of our restrictions in the number of people that we can physically distance within that area, it would mean a combination of administration and council being in the council chambers and a part probably calling in,” he said. “So there are some challenges in working through that.”

Smith said that the meetings through Zoom – a remote conferencing platform on the Internet that has become popular during the Covid-19 pandemic – have been going well.

“I think it’s been a good tool given the circumstances for both council and the public to watch the meetings on,” he said. “The quality has been strong overall, I would say, with respect to the use of the technology and the sound and video.”

During the June 30 online meeting of council, Mayor Kandis Jameson noted she was seeking input from councillors on resuming in-person meetings.

“I do feel that it is working rather well this way,” Jameson said of online meetings.

Hay River town hall reopened on July 6, after being closed to the public since mid-March by the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, the public hours for the administrative offices are limited to 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. each workday, and there are other safety restrictions, such as a limit to the number of people allowed in town hall at a time.

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Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

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