According to the Town of the Blue Mountains (TBM) deputy mayor, even though town hall is closed to the public, the local government is anything but shut down.
“We are not shut down. Our buildings and facilities are closed, which is what we have been asked to do,” says Rob Potter, deputy mayor of TBM. “Council is being updated daily and even more frequently. We are in touch quite often even though we are not together.”
Potter adds that residents can be assured anything that is time-sensitive is being handled appropriately, despite the council and committee of the whole meeting being cancelled until April 17, as per COVID-19 social distancing measures.
Manager of communications and economic development for the TBM, Tim Hendry says since the COVID-19 pandemic became a local issue the town’s senior management team has been meeting extensively.
“I can tell you that today alone the senior management team has met about three times. Sometimes there is just a specific topic we want to deal with and at other times they are just a general update from the CAO,” Hendry adds.
“Staff are doing a terrific job of looking for every aspect of town operations to make sure that everyone is safe and the social distance is maintained,” Potter says.
TBM town staff are exploring the possibility of holding virtual council meetings in an effort to reconvene council prior to April 17.
“We are looking into software that allows for electronic participation from the council because there are certain procedural requirements,” Potter says. “We are also waiting on some changes to the Municipal Act that will come from the provincial government. They have talked about it and we assume they are working on that and it will come to us soon.”
Potter explains that there are certain procedural requirements in the Municipal Act that become an issue in a virtual environment.
“The question of quorum, for example, is an issue. There are things like that need to be managed before we can hold an alternative meeting like that,” he says.
TBM council has maintained one special meeting of council on the calendar for March 30 to deal with any time-sensitive issues.
The March 30 meeting will also see mayor Alar Soever return to the council table. TBM announced earlier today that he will be returning to his position on Monday. Soever has been absent from his council seat since early January due to health complications.
“I look forward to returning to my duties as mayor,” explains Soever, in a town press release. “I understand and respect my health needs, and would like to assure residents that I am feeling well and ready to assume my duties subject to the advice of my doctor. I will be working collaboratively with the council and the town’s senior management team to deal with the effect of the COVID-19 crisis on our residents. Our first priority continues to be ensuring the continued operation of critical and essential municipal services. We are also looking at ways we can work with other levels of government to assist our residents with any economic hardships brought on by the COVID-19 crisis.”
Jennifer Golletz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, CollingwoodToday.ca