Council chambers in Vanderhoof have been closed to the public again, as a result of the new restrictions announced by the province. However, the mayor has confirmed video options will be made available.
Mayor Gerry Thiessen told the Express Dec. 9 that the district is “not allowed” to have public at council meetings. But the meetings will be videotaped and put on the municipal website the next day, he said.
“This is a changing landscape and it will continue for atleast the first half of the 2021 year. We will be working to be sure, to try as much as possible, to communicate and engage the citizens of Vanderhoof,” Thiessen said.
In June this year, district had barred entry into council chambers to the public and media. There were no video or audio options available for the public at the time. An inability to observe effective social distancing in council chambers with public attendance was offered as the reason for the closed meetings.
District officials cited ministerial orders issued by Mike Farnworth, minister of public safety and solicitor general as the basis for closing council chambers.
However, on June 22, B.C.’s Ombudsperson released an investigative report stating Farnworth did not have the authority to issue those two ministerial orders that suspended or amended existing legislation.
Vanderhoof district council opened their chambers for public participation towards the end of June, and said they would consider electronic broadcasts of open meeting, or other options.
When asked in June about why council hadn’t considered video for the past few months, Thiessen said council chambers did not have the capacity.
“We (mayor and council) decided to meet in person to keep the community going, and had an opinion. We were following guidelines,” Thiessen told the Express June. 24.
In July, renovations were made to council chambers, but little information was made available in regard to the specifics of the project.
Coun. Brian Frenkel told the Express July 10, that council chambers would have plexi-glass separating town council from one another, and people would be required to wear a mask.
District installed a new 80” TV as well as changed the layout of chambers during this time.
From the end of June this year public and media were allowed back into council chambers, until new provincial restrictions came into effect December.
Thiessen has said that residents will be able to access council meetings the next day via video on the District website, www.vanderhoof.ca.