Dufferin News Mulmur Municipal Politics

Mulmur Council Wants Meetings Accessible Post-COVID


Mulmur is making moves to ensure they continue to meet the expectation of online accessibility set for council meetings due to the pandemic.

Better yet, the costs involved in doing so will not hit the municipal budget. 

At the meeting held on May 5 by Mulmur’s council, the township’s treasurer, Heather Boston, presented a report involving buying audio-visual equipment for council meetings. The purpose of the purchases would be to assist in the digital meeting process. Mulmur’s council, and many others, have elected to allow for electronic participation as an option once meetings are re-opened to the public.

“We had brought this to council before, but we did not want to spend the money at the time because it was going to affect the tax levy,” shared Boston. “This will not affect the tax levy.”

The report states that the expenses related to the purchase and installation of the audio-visual equipment would be approximately $8,000, although council increased the allowance to $10,000. The quote received, for the purchase and installation of two 75″ televisions outfitted for teleconferencing, was over a year old. The price quoted also excluded the cost of a Poly Studio, a device that captures the video and speech of council members attending in-person. It was agreed that if the complete audio-visual solution cost more than $10,000, the established procurement process would be followed as per the township’s bylaws. All costs involved would qualify against the $89,692 in the COVID-19 Recovery Fund for Municipalities and the Safe Restart Agreement Funding that Mulmur received this year. Municipalities can only use this money for COVID-19 related expenses, which this project qualifies for.

“I think it’s a great opportunity to use those funds to get the screens up, to set us up,” Mulmur’s treasurer pronounced. 

For the most part, in-person public attendance at municipal council meetings has not been permitted during the pandemic. An exception to this was a public meeting held by Grand Valley’s council in 2020 at the Grand Valley Community Centre to allow for proper social distancing. Furthermore, the Township of Amaranth once authorized in-person attendance to those nominated to fill its vacant council seat. Some municipalities, such as the Township of Amaranth, allow for the audio recordings of electronic council meetings to be picked up at the municipal office by those who do not have online access and cannot attend meetings while they are occurring. Several councils have noted that more people are watching sessions due to the increased access established due to the pandemic, especially when recordings are uploaded or live-streamed to platforms such as YouTube and Facebook. 

“We have found that we do have some significant increase from time to time in council meetings, depending on the issue,” stated Mulmur’s Mayor Janet Horner at the council meeting, “and this would allow us to keep that increased interest by residents and allow for us to be together when that time comes too.”

Until the most recent lockdown, the Township of Amaranth had sanctioned councillors and staff to attend council meetings in person during the pandemic. Amaranth’s is the only council in Dufferin to regularly do this, although the option for councillors to participate electronically through Zoom was granted. That said, meetings have been subject to complications due to the lack of funding set aside to accommodate the hybrid meeting format appropriately. 

“Oh, sorry. Like I said, audio issues,” specified one nominee to Amaranth’s council when answering questions during the session to fill the township’s vacant council seat.

Although many journalism outlets have neglected to take advantage of the benefits created by electronic council meetings, the accessible format necessitated by the pandemic has allowed for enhanced coverage of municipal matters. More reporting on local issues, such as one council giving itself a 40% raise during the pandemic or an investigation into another township’s mayor workplace behaviour costing the taxpayers $28,070.09, raises transparency and increases the number of informed voters during municipal elections. 

“I don’t know how the media found out,” declared a councillor, referring to a story that Dufferin News broke by discovering the corresponding event in the meeting minutes, highlighting how some of Dufferin’s councils have been wholly overlooked by established press outlets. 

References – Mulmur Council Wants Meetings Accessible Post-COVID

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