By Mark Squibb/January 13, 2022
If there’s nothing else we’ve learned as a collective society during the pandemic, it’s how to use Zoom.
With the pandemic shutting down schools, churches, businesses, and even family gatherings, everyone from school age children to seniors have had to learn to use video conferencing — and fast. Folks who before 2019 didn’t know if social media was fit to eat have now come to rely on video conferences to visit loved ones virtually, attend classes, hold business meetings, or worship in a church service.
Town councils are no different, and in lieu of being able to conduct public meetings in council chambers, councils have resorted to a number of different means of broadcasting meetings to the public. Some councils have used telephone conference calls, while others have set up expensive video recording equipment in the council chambers to broadcast the meetings live. Still other councils have had councillors call into a Zoom call from home. And lots of councils have tried a combination of methods.
Carbonear and Bay Roberts, for example, have both broadcasted live from council chambers or had councillors dial into the meeting from home, depending on the alert level.
Recently, Carbonear has been holding meetings in chambers to allow up to nine folks to attend. While this decision meant people could attend in person, it also caused confusion for anybody watching at home, as each councillor and staff member present also had separate Zoom mics open. The resulting interference and feedback make the meetings at time indecipherable.
Butt said no one showed up to attend the meetings in person, instead opting to watch online, and that, as the province has since moved into Alert Level 4, meetings will be held virtually, with attendees dialing in from their homes, for the time being.
Should council steam live from chambers in the future, steps have been taken to improve the streaming experience for viewers. In December, council approved the purchase and installation of, and training in, a new live streaming service. The total cost paid to successful applicant Snow Security was $6,298.
Over in Bay Roberts, council has also been meeting in chambers, though the doors remain shut to the public due to space limitations. Three video cameras have been set up in the chambers to record the action, which is streamed live on the town’s YouTube channel.
“That was a major, major step for Bay Roberts council after all these years,” said Mayor Walter Yetman.
Moving forward, Yetman said council we be keeping an eye to the new restrictions.
“With the new regulations now, we can still meet in person, but we’ll have to look at the situation over the next couple of weeks,” he said. “But this year, all plans are to meet in person, and every meeting we are live to the public, and hopefully one day we will be open to the public again and everything will be back to normal.
Bay Roberts held its first council meeting of the new year on Tuesday.