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City to stream committee meetings

Hoping to maintain public participation in the governance of Marietta, two city council meetings will utilize Zoom and Facebook Live this week while maintaining social distancing measures.

Both internet video platforms are temporarily a legal option for governing bodies in Ohio to conduct official business during social distancing orders concerning COVID-19.

“We had our practice run today with Zoom so that we can keep the public involved in the democratic process,” said Councilman Geoff Schenkel, chairman of the Planning, Zoning, Annexation and Housing Committee, who called today’s meeting at 3 p.m. “I think (the information technology department) has a good feel for it, but as council members, I for one am new… people are coming to it openly and are trying to learn and want to do a good job and that makes a big difference when people come to something new with openness.”

Schenkel said he called today’s joint committee meeting to address an immediate need concerning federal funding of the city’s Community Development Block Grant.

“There’s a deadline for public comments with a CDBG substantial amendment and I want to make sure that we look at this thoroughly because I’m not sure everyone is catching on,” said Schenkel. “In my mind, this is not just a routine transfer.”

Schenkel repeated his concerns over the $3,834.70 transfer request from the city development department to move 2018 program funds for fair housing to the city’s emergency repair program.

While the transfer has been legally advertised, Finance Chairman Mike Scales indicated he would look to amending Ordinance 64, Section 1, and removing the transfer from the legislation introduced on March 19, no such removal occurred before that regular business meeting.

However, full legislative body will also hold a regular business meeting Thursday at 7:30 p.m. with four of its members expected to appear via Zoom.

“In order to run these meetings now, we need the technology that’s present in the Armory, room 10,” explained Council President Susan Vessels. “We are using the television that’s on the wall…I anticipate that we will have about 12 people in the actual room.”

But the public is still encouraged to participate in both meetings, either via Facebook Live or through official correspondence with the council clerk, Jennifer Starkey.

Public comments during the regular business meeting are more controlled in the order of business than committee meetings, noted Vessels.

“They will still have to be said during the fourth order of business, and we still need your name and address for the record,” she said.

During today’s committee meeting, public participation will be facilitated not only by city employees but also by the press, through reader questions sent to The Marietta Times.

Thursday’s regular business meeting will see the public’s comments moderated by a person from the city IT department, said Vessels.

“We’re going to have some bugs, but we’re going to make this work,” encouraged Schenkel.

Vessels also noted for those attending Thursday’s meeting in person, individuals must submit to a temperature reading by the Marietta-Belpre Health Department at the Armory doors before admittance.

Janelle Patterson can be reached at jpatterson@mariettatimes.com

If you go:

Marietta City Council’s Planning, Zoning, Annexation and Housing Committee is scheduled to jointly meet with Finance Committee and Streets Committee today at 3 p.m. in room 10 of the Armory.

Council’s regular business meeting is scheduled for Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in the same room.

Both meetings are to be streamed on Facebook Live to encourage social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Source: Times research.

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