White Rock council has unanimously endorsed a motion from Coun. Helen Fathers to return to its schedule of two regular meetings per month (not including public hearings and meetings on development proposals).
Council has been holding special council meetings every other week – with updates on COVID-19 as a first priority following the provincial declaration of emergency on March 18.
But that doesn’t mean a return to the usual format. Since the emergence of the pandemic, meetings have been conducted with social distancing of council and staff at city hall with no members of the public present (live streams and archived recordings of meetings are available on the city website, whiterockcity.ca).
The idea of moving back to the usual schedule was raised by Mayor Darryl Walker at the June 8 special meeting.
“I’m wondering whether we’ve kind of run the course on meeting weekly, and whether there is enough work to be done on these weekly meetings for us to make it worthwhile, or if it’s something that we may want to back off on, with the full understanding that we could come back and set the same process up again,” Walker said.
He added that, in conversation with new chief administrative officer Guillermo Ferrero, it had been observed that “we’re also very much tapping out staff in terms of the clerical and the work that needs to be done and so on.”
“I believe that going to a regular schedule would be wise,” Ferrero told council. “COVID-19 updates could also be incorporated into the agendas of regularly scheduled meetings and it would give us a little more breathing room to catch up with some of the other reports you are requesting from us.”
Coun. Christopher Trevelyan pointed out that although the incidence of COVID-19 cases is currently low, multiple shorter meetings would likely be safer, should conditions worsen.
Next regular meetings would be June 15 and June 29, but planning and development services director Carl Isaak reminded council that there is also an electronic public hearing set for June 22 for a mixed use development project at 1453 Stayte Rd.
“(That will) test out the electronic public hearing format,” he said. “If it runs very smoothly we would maybe be able to incorporate that into a regular council meeting as well.”