Some North Shore council meetings will proceed in pandemic

When it comes to municipal business during the COVID-19 pandemic, the show must go on – for some, anyways.

Starting on Monday, City of North Vancouver council members will convene for regular meetings, though most of council will be there virtually.

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Only Mayor Linda Buchanan will be in the council chamber, along with the city’s chief administrative officer and city clerk.

“Obviously at an appropriate physical distance from one another, and the rest of council conferencing in,” said city spokeswoman Stephanie Smiley. “The technology is there, which is wonderful.”

Public hearings have been suspended, but Smiley said the city is attempting to see that things continue moving forward despite the pandemic, as long as it can be done safely.

“For us in the city, we are very fortunate. Things for the most part are carrying on business as usual as much as we can, which is great. The same goes for council,” she said.

Members of the public who want to participate will have to tune in via the livestream on the city’s website and make their comments via email, Smiley added.

The District of West Vancouver has also scheduled two more regular meetings, in which all of council will be in the chamber, albeit two metres apart from each other.

Council has one major loose end to tie up – passing the 2020 budget, which must legally be adopted by the end of April. That is currently scheduled to happen at the April 6 meeting, after which, council will likely cancel all planned future meetings until June, at least, said Donna Powers, West Vancouver spokeswoman.

Powers said staff have pulled out every other row of seats in the gallery to enforce social distancing.

“We are encouraging the public … to please stay at home and watch from home and send in your comments by email. Should a few diehards come in, we have really spread things out in the council chamber,” she said.

Council may schedule emergency meetings as needed, Powers said.

West Van residents will still see municipal crews out doing the work the district is legally required to carry out, like collecting garbage and ensuring water mains are running clear. But all other municipal staff have been reorganized around COVID-19, Powers said.

“There's a lot of work energy being shifted to planning – planning for addressing the current and future impacts of the pandemic on the community, on the finances of the organization and how we deliver our work,” she said.

The District of North Vancouver, meanwhile, has cancelled all of its regular meetings, workshops and public hearings at least until the end of April.

DNV spokeswoman Courtenay Rannard said council may reconvene on an emergency basis if there is reason to.

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© North Shore News

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