Smiths Falls town council has decided it is too soon to resume in-person meetings.
At a virtual special council meeting Mon., Aug. 10, a motion to hold in-person council meetings beginning Aug. 24 was discussed.
The province ended its state of emergency on July 24, but Smiths Falls is still continuing with theirs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“For me Aug. 24 is way too early. We need to be vigilant and cognizant of the virus,” Coun. Jay Brennan said. “For me the Zoom meetings have been working very well. You’re never going to get 1,000 people into the council chambers, I’ll tell you that.”
The Zoom council meetings have been successful despite connection issues with audio and video.
“I’m really excited to get back on the 24th, and I don’t think safety needs to be compromised to do this,” Coun. Chris McGuire said.
Other than Internet issues, body language is a key component for holding meetings.
“With my background, body language is a big thing for me,” Coun. Lorraine Allen said. “I don’t think virtual meetings are as effective as in-person.”
Returning to in-person meetings as early as September prompts worries of having to go back to virtual meetings if and when there is a second wave of the virus.
“I think we can all agree there is a second wave coming and it would be good to keep the option open (for e-participation),” Coun. Niki Dwyer said. “Although it’s pretty hard to miss someone’s facial expressions in this format.”
Mayor Shawn Pankow highlighted the importance of wearing a mask, despite the efforts of a few continuing to deny the efforts of public health. He said there is anabundance of misinformation floating around online and in the community.
“When Smiths Falls declares their state of emergency is over, then I will feel comfortable returning to in-person meetings,” Coun. Wendy Alford said.