Castlegar city council will continue to hold its meetings online at least until the new year.
A motion to resume in-person council meetings was brought forward at the Oct. 23 council meeting. After much discussion, the motion was tabled until January.
Council has been holding meetings through Zoom since the beginning weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Councillors Maria McFaddin and Dan Rye were the firmest proponents of resuming in-person meetings.
Rye spoke about public criticisms around council avoiding public meetings while a number of other sectors, including schools, have all resumed in-person activities.
McFaddin spoke about the team benefits of meeting face to face. She also mentioned the need to set an example.
“If we are expecting other people to take a bit of a risk to get with our lives and get our economy running … shouldn’t we also be finding a way to do that?”
Mayor Bruno Tassone was also in favour of resuming in-person meetings, but only if masks are worn by everyone in attendance.
“If council is not willing to wear masks, I will vote against this,” said Tassone.
Councilor Florio Vassilakakis wanted to continue with online meetings, expressing concern over being in the same room for five or six hours.
“It doesn’t matter what space you have between us, we are all breathing the same air,” said Vassilakakis.
Vassilakakis also expressed concern over the number of “bubbles” that will intersect at the meetings.
Councillor Sue Heaton-Sherstibitoff had numerous concerns including interacting with the public, air exchange, inability to social distance, washroom facilities, cleaning needs and people removing masks. She was strongly against the motion.
Councilor Bergen Price came into the meeting in favour of resuming in-person meetings, but by the middle of the conversation said he was “on the fence.” Eventually, he too decided against the motion.
Council asked staff to investigate the HVAC and air exchange system at the council chambers and bring a report back to council as soon as possible.
Council also needs to make a decision in the coming weeks as to how they will hold budget meetings and public budget consultations.
Meanwhile, City Hall has been open since the end of June with most city staff returning to the office.