Vernon council meetings have now gone strictly virtual following the latest provincial health orders aimed at reducing the spread of COVID-19. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)

Vernon council meetings have now gone strictly virtual following the latest provincial health orders aimed at reducing the spread of COVID-19. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)

COVID-19 closes Vernon council meetings to public

Like everything else in the world, municipal government is only accessible online

Like everything else, municipal governance is going strictly virtual.

The City of Vernon council meetings and hearings are now closed to the public including the media.

This move follows the extension of in-person and community-based gathering across British Columbia, announced by Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry Monday, Dec. 7. The intention is to help significantly reduce the spread of COVID-19.

READ MORE: Events, gatherings banned through Christmas, New Years in B.C. with no COVID reprieve insight

“In accordance with this provincewide directive, the City of Vernon is reminding the public about opportunities to view council meetings electronically and how individuals may continue to participate in upcoming public hearings, through written submissions,” the city said in a press release Tuesday.

The city video records all open council meetings and public hearings and makes them available at vernon.ca.

The council meeting and public hearing scheduled Dec. 14 will be available to Vernonites by noon the next day.

During the hearing, city staff will make presentations on the applications before council. All written submissions received by the corporate officer by 3 p.m. that day will be read into the record and posted on vernon.ca/publichearings. Council will then recess the meeting until Jan. 11, 2021.

“In response to the health order, the city has temporarily extended the public hearing process to provide an opportunity for individuals to view the meeting online, view the written submissions regarding the applications, and provide additional written comment prior to the Jan. 11 meeting.”

Written comments must be received by the corporate officer by 3 p.m. Jan. 7, 2021, they can be emailed to phearings@vernon.ca.

The city will continue this process until the PHO rescinds or amends the order to allow in-person attendance at public hearings again.

All neighbouring jurisdictions are also following suit in response to the latest orders:

Coldstream

No public is allowed to attend council meetings and public hearings, as per the provincial health order (PHO). The district has started using the Zoom webinar to broadcast its meetings in case people want to watch. The district will post the registration information for each meeting on its website.

Armstrong

The City of Armstrong announced Dec. 7 it was closing its doors to the public while working quickly to set up virtual capability for scheduled meetings on Dec. 10 and 14.

“The public will be allowed to attend these meetings in a virtual capacity only. Space may be limited so register early by contacting city hall, info@cityofarmstrong.bc.ca or 250-546-3023,” said chief administrative officer Kevin Bertles.

Spallumcheen

The township is following the PHO and has closed its council meetings and hearings to the public, effective Dec. 7. If you want to attend a meeting using a phone, electronic device or computer, call 250-546-3013 or email mail@spallumcheentwp.bc.ca to request a meeting link.

Enderby

The public is not allowed to attend council meetings or public hearings, but may take part electronically by Zoom video. Those wishing to watch proceedings via Zoom are encouraged to call city hall a few hours before the meeting to receive the Zoom code.

READ MORE: Armstrong closes council meetings, public hearings to residents

READ MORE: Interior Health reports 203 new COVID-19 cases; two more deaths


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jennifer@vernonmorningstar.com

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