By Serena Lapointe, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

 Like the Town of Whitecourt, Woodlands County holds online meetings and Council members and staff tune in, often from home. The motion, brought forward by Mayor John Burrows, directed Administration to lower the elected official honorariums by ten percent. It also included reducing the professional development funds, per elected official, by five thousand dollars for 2020.

Since then, the Council Chamber was equipped with the technology needed to live stream meetings so that even when they return to in-person attendance, residents near and far can tune in to keep up to date on Woodlands County Council happenings. At the time, the motion included a stipulation that once Council returned, in-person, to Council Chambers for their regular meetings, that the honorarium would get fully reinstated.

During the June 15 electronic meeting of Council, Administration let Council know that they could soon get back to in-person meetings. “We are anticipating that all restrictions of the pandemic will be lifted sometime in July,” explained CAO Gordon Frank. “We are asking Council if they want to resume in-person meetings in the Council Chambers.” At the time, Administration did not know when Stage 3 would kick in, so they decided to plan the first in-person meeting for July 20.

The RFD (Request for Decision) stated that Administration was “presently testing the equipment and investigating additional bandwidth to ensure uninterrupted streaming.” Unaware if there would still be distancing restrictions, the streaming capabilities enable them to be cautious and ensure that seating arrangements are not limited for attendees since people can watch online.

Councillor Dale Kluin said he agreed with part of the RFD. “The recommendation is to resume meetings at the administrative office, and in the background, it gets into our ten percent reduction. I have absolutely no problem getting back to having regular Council meetings, but I do not think what we have done in the past, of cutting honorariums by ten percent, has hurt any of us. So I would like to recommend that we stay where we are as far as remunerations.”

This item is reprinted with permission from the Whitecourt Press. For the complete article, click HERE

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