Niagara-on-the-Lake council and committee meetings will remain virtual for the foreseeable future.
Councillors on Monday, Aug. 30, were presented with the option of in-person meetings by parks and recreation manager Kevin Turcotte, but unanimously decided the associated costs and uncertainty caused by the ongoing pandemic made the move unnecessary.
Two in-person options were presented.
The first had the lord mayor and councillors in the chamber and senior staff working from separate rooms in the town hall. All delegates, staff, media and members of the public would attend virtually.
That option carried a cost of $500 for the addition of more tables to accommodate social distancing rules.
The other option had the lord mayor, councillors, all staff and delegates in the chamber. Media, the general public and some staff members would attend virtually.
This option carried a rough cost of $17,000 for the installation of partitions between desks.
Coun. Clare Cameron acknowledged that the return to in-person meetings would be beneficial for the public, saying, “It’s hard for people to use the virtual meetings. They want an in-person connection.”
She asked if the public could be accommodated but Turcotte said the town hall is technically closed to the public until Ontario enters full reopening.
Other councillors said the move was premature and too costly.
Coun. Allan Bisback said spending $20,000 on the project seems unwarranted.
“My recommendation is we wait until we are in a full reopening. Once we are in a full reopening maybe staff can revisit it,” he told council.
Coun. Sandra O’Connor said the town shouldn’t consider in-person meetings until a vaccination policy has been established.
Evan Saunders, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Lake Report