We have now reached the point of being able to be confident that covid-19 protocol will most likely be in effect for the remainder of 2020 and maybe beyond. We do live with the warning that at any time things can change and we may be forced into a total lockdown. There is no suggestion that things can change and all restrictions will be removed in the near or even distant future.
For now, and foreseeable future all persons will wear masks in enclosed public spaces, physical distancing of two metres is required, a strict sanitizing regime is required at all times, and gatherings are continuing to be limited in numbers.
Many municipalities have not opened their doors, while others have imposed strict restrictions on how the public can physically access services. The Township of North Algona has done very well at being able to provide services. Our transfer stations have remained open throughout since the start of restrictions. Our office was closed for a period, it is open now with an exterior service window for the public. Council meetings went through progression of being cancelled, to being virtual and now with all of Council attending in person again.
It is now time for council to direct the next steps, how the Township will conduct business until the end of the year. In January Council can re-evaluate and make a plan for 2021.
Council needs to direct the following;
- Township Office Service delivery
- Council Meeting Attendance Structure
- Public Broadcasting of Meetings
- Public Participation at Public Meetings
- Budget Direction
The present system of using a public service window has been working great and very well received. It eliminates the requirement for staff to police the wearing of masks by the public and it minimizes the need for sanitizing the counter aera between customers.
As fall approaches it will not be quite as pleasant at the service window and it will be a little difficult to handle transactions with inclement weather.
It is recommended that as of October 1st the service window be closed and public will access the office through the main entrance. The public will be limited to the counter area and Masks and physical distancing will be required.
Presently Council attends meetings in person with physical spacing and the public is not permitted in the chamber so there is no requirement for masks. The chamber is very limited in capacity, only staff or delegations are permitted to attend meetings.
Moving forward Council is limited in options to expand to public attendance, there is the opportunity to allow the press to attend meetings with preapproval to ensure space is available.
Without changing the venue, it is not recommended that public physical attendance be permitted for the remainder of 2020.
Public Broadcast of Meetings
At this time meetings are in the “Zoom “format and the public are invited to attend through telephone audio.
This works somewhat okay. There are a few complaints regarding sound and quality of the audio. It should be noted that although there are a few complaints there are never more than a few listening, it is not a popular event in the community.
Council has requested that staff investigate ways to improve quality of sound. Staff have looked at several options. Unfortunately, part of the issue residents listening in are having is with their own equipment. Ultimately if Council desires very high quality “real time” broadcasting the best way to accomplish it is to have all attendees including Council attend virtually.
What can be delivered with reasonable quality is posting the meeting on the Township You Tube channel, the township Webpage and Facebook page after the meeting. It is not “live” but it is the entire meeting unedited, with both video and audio. Posting the meeting allows all residents access at their convenience to all council meetings.
It is recommended that meetings continue in person with the “Zoom” format and the day after the meetings are posted on the Township social media avenues. Staff will endeavor to continue to make improvements in video and audio wherever possible.
Council suspended public meetings for zoning and variances until recently with the first ones being held at the Rankin Culture and Community Centre. Public meetings are required and a format going forward needs to be implemented.
Staff recommend conducting outside meetings at Mellissa Bishop Park until October 1st and then switch to the Golden Lake Community Centre until the end of 2020.
Mellissa Bishop Park has the option in bad weather to move into the cottage and still have physical spacing. The Golden Lake Community Centre has the capacity to set Council up as a panel stretching across the room and limited public on the other side of the room physically spaced. Both the Cottage and the community Centre will require all attendees to wear masks.
Budget discussions generate public interest and it will be difficult to accommodate the public in 2020. It is a good practice to start budget preparation in the fall before the start of the budget year.
It is recommended given current restrictions that staff be directed to prepare a “status quo” budget for December 31st 2020 and a schedule of Council meetings that result in a completed budget for February 23rd 2021.
With the acceptance of the above plan and report the Township will be able to manage business for the remainder of 2020. It is understood that Covid-19 conditions may change and restrictions may force the Township to alter plans.
Resolution 7.11 August 18, 2020
Moved by Councillor Reiche-Schoenfeldt
Seconded by Councillor Berndt
That Council accepts the COVID-19 Township plan for the remainder of 2020 report as presented.
For COVID – 19 Federal updates click the link below:
For COVID – 19 Provincial updates click the link below: