Petersburg’s borough assembly meetings are incorporating Zoom videoconferencing and ditching a teleconference format used during the global health pandemic. The borough is planning to launch a new website later this year and eventually to stream video of the meetings live.
The change to Zoom happened with the Monday, May 3 assembly meeting, with some elected officials in person in the assembly chambers and other participants on videoconference.
Borough clerk Debbie Thompson explained the changes.
“This COVID era also showed us that we are behind the times when it comes to live streaming video of our assembly meetings and using one of the new videoconferencing systems offered like Zoom,” Thompson said. “Most other Southeast towns are already providing these services for their residents. So we considered a consolidation of services from MuniCode, the company that hosts our municipal code and also offers website and meeting management systems.”
Thompson said meeting materials are a little difficult to find on the borough’s existing website and thanked the public for their patience. Meeting details are on the website under “New Assembly Meeting Platform.”
The Zoom videoconference becomes a permanent part of the meetings. People online or calling in to the videoconference will be able to testify remotely that way. Once pandemic restrictions are removed the public will also be able to testify in person.
Another change is a new deadline and requirement to register to testify before meetings. Thompson is asking anyone who wants to testify to register at least an hour before the meeting starts.
“If I happen to get an email or see a message past that deadline but before the meeting starts, I’m certainly going to add those people to the list, I’m going to do my best to accommodate,” she said. “And as I said once we’re open to in-person meetings again, people can always come in and they can do that during the meeting, once we’re open to in-person. But as far as Zooming in, I really want to try and stick to having a deadline to sign up for the ease of the clerks.”
People can sign up to testify as far in advance as they want. The public is unable to attend in person until the assembly votes to lift the local health mandate that’s been in place for over a year.
Five assembly members were in person and one online for Monday’s meeting with mayor Mark Jensen not present. The borough assembly chambers also has a new sound and video system and that’s still getting some adjustments.