County moves to hybrid in-person/virtual format for public meetings
For the first time in two years, Clark County residents will be able to attend county council meetings, planning commission meetings, land use hearings and advisory board meetings in person. On Wednesday, the Clark County Council voted to transition from virtual-only meetings to a hybrid of in-person and virtual meetings.
In person meetings were halted at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 to meet social distancing in place to slow the spread of the virus. When mask requirements were lifted on March 12, many expected the county to resume in person meetings right away.
However, according to County Manager Kathleen Otto there were technical challenges related to the hybrid format to work though before the change could be made. The audio equipment used in the council chambers doesn’t work well with livestreaming and anyone speaking from the dais would be difficult to hear, Otto told the council.
“However, it does not prohibit the council from opening up (the meetings). The council could come in, have our meetings in the hearing room and we can test it out… It it’s too hard to hear, we can set that councilor up in their office with a computer and have them join that way,” Otto said during the council meeting.
The council unanimously approved changing to the hybrid format, which will provide in-person and virtual participation options for both councilors and the public. The change goes into effect on April 11. Under the Open Public Meetings Act, the county is still required to offer a remote option for public meetings.
The council’s next public meeting at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday will be its first meeting under the new format. That meeting is a public hearing on the proposed legislative district map approved by the council for public review earlier in the week.
County council meetings and hearings are held in the sixth-floor hearing room at the Public Service Center, 1300 Franklin St. in Vancouver.
For an agenda or links to the virtual meeting, go to https://clark.wa.gov/councilors/clark-county-council-meetings.
— Shari Phiel