Surrey city council chambers. (File photo)

Surrey city staff considering alternatives to ‘virtual’ council meetings

‘That actual chambers does not work well for COVID,’ city manager says

Surrey City council will continue on with virtual meetings while staff look into other scenarios that accommodate proper social distancing during the pandemic.

“I understand some cities are starting to move back into their own chambers,” Councillor Brenda Locke noted at the June 29 council meeting.

“We have been operating virtually, but I for one don’t believe it’s optimum. I think it’s difficult and challenging for the residents,” she said. She asked city staff what the plan is “to get us back so that we’re actually in the chamber doing the people’s work.”

City manager Vincent Lalonde said council can already meet together in two rooms. “We don’t have one room to have you in.”

He said the room the mayor sits in during the virtual meetings can accommodate three councillors, and another room could accommodate the rest.

READ ALSO: Surrey council rejects motion to back off on restaurant patio fees

Lalonde said council chambers “unfortunately,” doesn’t permit proper social distancing nor the technology to make that feasible.

He said perhaps by September council will be able to convene in a “much larger room” with the council sitting at front and members of the public “could have proper spacing inside the room.”

Council chambers, he said, poses a problem because when people come and go in the theatre seating, they have to go by everybody else in their row.

“That actual chambers does not work well for COVID,” Lalonde said. “But that’s not to say that you couldn’t have another room that could achieve the same thing so we’re looking into that. In the meantime, if council wishes to be together we could do it under two rooms, not all together but we can definitely accommodate it under two rooms.”

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