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Hybrid city council meetings could start in October

Steps being taken allow council members, public to attend virtually or in person
2018-06-06 Orillia City Centre
Orillia City Centre. Nathan Taylor/OrilliaMatters file photo

City staff are working on a plan to move to hybrid council meetings.

The goal is to implement a model that would allow for staff and council members to participate either remotely or in person.

Currently, Mayor Steve Clarke is the only member of council taking part in the virtual meetings from the council chamber. Members of the clerk’s division are also on site.

The measures taken so far include enhancements to the sound system in the council chamber, which has eliminated noise issues, such as feedback, during the virtual meetings.

Plexiglass barriers will be installed between council and staff desks.

In the public gallery, steps have been taken to ensure physical distancing among audience members and members of the media.

“I absolutely commend staff for taking this initiative,” Clarke said, adding he took part in a test meeting and it was “seamless.”

For members of the public who attend in person, masks will be mandatory. Discussions are underway about whether proof of vaccination will be required.

Staff are aiming for Oct. 4 as a start date for hybrid meetings, but it will depend on the COVID-19 situation and when a contractor is available to install the barriers.

“It could be realistic, but it might have to change,” Clarke said of the planned start date.

The fourth wave of the pandemic is here, which could cause a change of plan.

“Until we get the number of people that are unvaccinated to be an extremely small percentage, we’re going to be in danger,” Clarke said. “This thing is not going away.”