Wellesley moves meetings online as social distancing practiced
Woolwich & Wellesley Township's Local Community Newspaper | Elmira, Ontario, Canada
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Wellesley moves meetings online as social distancing practiced

While the province is dealing with an ever-changing social landscape as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, social distancing measures are forcing businesses to find different ways to continue their day-to-day work.

Municipal politics is not immune to the social distancing guidelines, and Wellesley council has adapted by moving their meetings to an online format so they can continue to serve the community.

Last month, council began to meet through a teleconference format  that was live streamed through YouTube. This was the first time council had ever taken such an approach to hold a meeting, and because of the state of emergency in the province related to COVID-19, it’s sure to be the new normal for some time.

Using Zoom Video Conferencing, council has held two meetings so far, with Mayor Joe Nowak saying it’s going well.

“I think the format is such that each of the councillors gets an opportunity to speak, it’s actually a little more regimented than your regular council meeting,” said Nowak.

He says the downside is residents and others who want to speak or take part in delegations would not be able to do so, and would have to send their notes instead. 

When residents watch the live video on YouTube, they’re not able to see video of councillors and staff, instead getting an audio stream of the meeting as it takes place. Township clerk Grace Kosch said she hopes video and audio will be available to the public in any potential future meeting.

Another change that has come from meetings being moved to this format is the change of timing. All regularly scheduled meetings currently listed under the council meeting calendar are cancelled and will not run on the listed days and times.

Normally, regular council and committee of the whole meetings are held on the first and third Tuesday of each month in the evening. Since meetings moved online, they have not only taken place during the day, but have also been held on a Thursday – March 26 meeting – and a Wednesday – April 1 meeting.

Nowak says he can’t promise a set schedule, and all future meetings will be held as needed when matters which are important to the community arise.

During the March 26 meeting, council passed two bylaws, the first of which allowed members to participate in meetings electronically.

The second bylaw, will allow the township to help support residents during the COVID-19 pandemic. These supports will include the waiving of penalties and interest being on property taxes, late payment charges on miscellaneous accounts receivable, and non-sufficient funds fees charged on customer accounts. April and May 2020 is the period in which these things will be waived.

During the April 1 meeting three bylaws were passed, two of which were held over from a March 17 meeting that was cancelled due to COVID-19.

Bylaws passed included the closure and sale of St. Clements Road, the awarding of an SUV tender for a new fire command vehicle, and a property tax rebate for registered charities.

Currently there are no plans to hold another council meeting in the next two weeks.

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