The City of Airdrie will continue holding its council, board and commission meetings electronically, following a decision at City council’s March 1 regular meeting to revisit the topic in the future.
Following a presentation from Sharon Polyck, the city clerk and director of the chief administrative officer's office, council voted to continue meeting digitally until Alberta enters Stage 4 of its ‘A Path Forward’ plan to ease public health restrictions in the province. According to Polyck, Stage 4 is when the provincial government will lift a requirement for employees to work from home unless they are unable to do their jobs otherwise.
Alberta entered a modified version of Stage 2 on March 1, with each new stage being considered every three weeks. The earliest Stage 4 could come into effect is mid-April, pending the status of COVID-19 in the province.
City council has been holding meetings digitally since the onset of the pandemic. While the option of returning to in-person meetings has been discussed a few times in the last year, council has decided on each occasion to continue abiding by provincial health guidelines.
“I'm probably the biggest proponent for getting out of my home, but I think throughout the entire pandemic, we've followed the provincial guidelines and have been very clear about that,” Coun. Tina Petrow said. “I think we're doing a great job online, even though I really want to get back into my seat in council chambers.”
Coun. Candice Kolson brought up how having council meet virtually has likely saved the City of Airdrie money, as the municipality has not had to install Plexiglas barriers between seats or implement other health protocols in council chambers.
“I don't think we need to invest in that the way we're doing these meetings online,” she said. “It's fiscally more responsible when you look at what we would have to do to manage all the current health rules.”
After discussion, Coun. Kelly Hegg was the only member who voted against the motion to continue meeting virtually, stating he is ready to return to in-person meetings.
“I'm ready to go back, provided we could make it work to fit in with COVID regulations,” he said.