Hay River town council has decided to stick with Zoom – a virtual conferencing system – instead of returning right now to in-person meetings.
Council discussed the issue while meeting on Zoom on Sept. 1.
After hearing various opinions, Mayor Kandace Jameson said that the council meetings will remain on Zoom.
“I’m going to say we’ll go ahead with the Zoom for the foreseeable future,” she said. “If we find some snags or whatever, we’ll re-evaluate again at a later date.”
Because of space limitations in council chambers, in-person meetings would require that some town staff participate online and members of the public would not be able to attend.
That appeared to be the major factor in council’s decision to stay with online meetings.
“It’s a lot easier for communicating and I think it’s a lot easier for people in the public to hear us,” Jameson said of online meetings. “I think that if we have half of us on one forum and half of us on the other that we’re going to lose a lot of that clarity. I would prefer personally to remain as we are. It’s working.”
On March 30, council conducted its first meeting using Zoom, a remote conferencing platform on the Internet that has become popular during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Councillors generally support using Zoom while the pandemic persists.
“I think that the Zoom meetings have been working quite effectively,” said Coun. Jeff Groenewegen, adding that in-person meetings would not be effective unless everyone could be in the room.
“I think the Zoom meetings have actually come along quite well, and I personally got used to them,” said Coun. Steve Anderson, who also expressed concern that in-person meetings in council chambers would not be able to accommodate everyone, including delegations from the public. “So I would lean towards more just continuing with Zoom at this time.”
Coun. Linda Duford also backed staying on Zoom.
“I would be in favour of Zoom until such time as we can be open to the public and have everybody come in,” she said.
Coun. Brian Willows said his preference would be to meet in person, and asked if it would be possible to gather at a larger room in the Hay River Community Centre.
Glenn Smith, the senior administrative officer for the town, said that would take some audio and video changes so the meetings could still be seen on You Tube, meaning an investment of some funds.
“Anything is possible, I would say,” said Smith. “But to get the product we have been used to in the council chambers will take some effort.”