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City council meetings will remain virtual sessions — for now

In-person council meetings are permitted but 'given limitations,' the health unit suggests continuing virtual meetings for the duration of the pandemic
budget committee meeting july 16
City council has held virtual meetings since mid-March when Orillia Mayor Steve Clarke declared a state of emergency.

It looks like Orillia’s city council meetings will continue to be virtual affairs - at least for now.

Dr. Charles Gardner, the medical officer of health for the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, recently circulated a memo to municipalities about public council meetings.

While 50 people are now permitted at indoor gatherings in the province, physical distancing must be maintained at all times. That means each person must always be at least two metres apart from every other person.

In addition, Garder suggested ensuring that aisles and walkways in council chambers be designated as one-way where possible.

And, of course, everyone should wear a face covering inside as per the health unit’s earlier decree.

“In keeping with the above, in-person council meetings would be allowed within the requirements specified,” noted the memo from Gardner.

“However given these limitations … (the) SMDHU suggests continuing alternative means of meeting and of seeking public input, where possible, for the duration of the pandemic as an ongoing preventative measure.”

In discussions with the Association of Municipalities in Ontario (AMO), Gardner noted the health unit has worked with the Association of Municipal Managers, Clerks and Treasurers of Ontario (AMCTO) and the Municipal Information Systems Association (MISA) on virtual meeting guidelines to fulfill all the Municipal Act requirements during virtual meetings including committee meetings, noted the health unit’s memo.

The city has discussed the issue and “are currently evaluating council meeting formats.”

For now, the city will continue to have virtual meetings that are live-streamed when possible.

The idea is to ensure that meetings are “held in accordance with physical distancing and public gathering requirements.”

In virtual meetings, the members of council participate from their homes, while Clarke is joined at City Hall by some members of staff.

The next scheduled meeting of city council is not until Aug. 24 as the municipal government is on its summer meeting schedule.