Return to in-person council meetings

MORRISBURG – Tuesday night, South Dundas council returned to fully in-person public council meetings in its council chambers here in Morrisburg for the first time in almost six months.

All South Dundas council meetings have been held virtually since late March when the state of emergency was declared by the Province for the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I am happy to go back into chambers,” said South Dundas mayor Steven Byvelds, in advance of the Tuesday night meeting. “It’s not that the Webex meetings didn’t work, rather it just feels more personable,” said Byvelds. “Counties have been back for the last two meetings and it just has a better feel to it.”

“I am thrilled to be safely back,” said South Dundas deputy mayor Kirsten Gardner. “While video conferencing is a good alternative, meeting in-person to discuss and debate a variety of issues seems to be a better option for connecting as a group and working as a team.”

“I’m glad to be going back to in-person meetings for the simple reason that I think we get more done sitting at the table,” said South Dundas councillor Donald Lewis.

“I’m glad to be having an in-person meeting,” agreed South Dundas councillor Archie Mellan. “It adds to better discussions and decision-making.”

“I think it makes the meeting more personal and I think you can express yourself better,” said South Dundas councillor Lloyd Wells.

Asked what they have learned throughout this online meeting process, South Dundas mayor Steven Byvleds said: “It taught us that we can have meetings virtually.”

“As much as it was a learning experience, I do believe we did a good job of adapting to it,” he said, adding that it did give residents the opportunity to see council in action while staying home.

“I’m no stranger to meeting online and via teleconference and have always felt that meeting in-person is a better option,” said Gardner. “This experience highlighted how important it is to have different options for our meetings, not just for our council but also to be available in multiple formats for the engagement of our South Dundas residents.”

“A lot of citizens followed our online meetings and gave us a lot of feedback,” said Lewis.

Mellan and Wells agreed that there were many technical difficulties with Webex.

“I couldn’t always see everyone or hear clearly the full discussion from council and staff,” said Mellan, saying it was likely due to internet connection issues.

“There always seems to be technical problems,” said Wells.

Going forward council plans to continue broadcasting all its meetings live online.

The September 8th meeting was an exception due to a technical issue.

“By having meetings online we have created a new expectation,” said Byvelds. “This experience worked well. I believe we would have moved to this format eventually anyway. This forced our hand sooner.”

Gardner said that she absolutely wants online meetings to continue. “I love seeing our residents engaged in municipal meetings. This experience highlighted how much people want to find out more information and see their council in action. I would also add that it supports transparency and provides some clarification on why decisions are made.”

“It lets citizens follow what’s going on at the council table,” said Lewis adding that not a lot of people want to sit at a council meeting.

Mellan said that he likes that people can see and hear council business at their convenience rather than getting their information from the coffee clubs.

“It’s great to have our meetings online,” said Wells. “It’s a really easy way for the public to tune-in on what’s going on in the municipality and with the council.”

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