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Elkins Council adapting to virtual meetings

ELKINS — Elkins City Council has decided to cancel this week’s regular meeting in addition to city committee meetings deemed non-essential.

“We needed additional time to research, test and train users on a new virtual way to host meetings while still abiding by the W.V. Open Meetings Act,” Elkins City Clerk Jessica Sutton said in an email to The Inter-Mountain Tuesday.

After preparation last week, council members hosted a special-call virtual meeting on March 26 online via the Zoom platform.

“I thought the meeting went very well under the circumstances,” said Second Ward Councilman Charlie Friddle. “The mayor, council and staff should be proud!”

When the city does virtual meetings using Zoom, citizens can watch the meeting using either their phones or a computer, and can call in their public comments in advance to be read aloud during the meetings.

“Having the agenda available to each of us made the meeting easy to follow and ask questions if needed,” said city treasurer Tracy Judy. “It seemed like any other city council meeting except for not being able to see each council person sitting at their seat.”

“I thought last week’s virtual council meeting went very well, especially given the number of participants that needed to be on-boarded in such a short amount of time,” said Sutton. “I’m very proud to work with officials and staff as adaptive and supportive as those within the City of Elkins.”

With only a week between the special-call meeting and the regular meeting scheduled for Thursday, council decided to cancel this week’s meeting as there was no new business to discuss.

“We are still limiting our meetings to only those deemed essential and/or time-sensitive, and will continue to conduct these meetings using a virtual platform for the safety of our officials, staff and the public,” said Sutton.

Upcoming city virtual meetings include Finance Committee at 10 a.m. on Monday, April 6; City Council at 7 p.m. on April 16; and a special-call City Council meeting on April 21, time to be determined, to “lay the levy.”

“We’ll just play by ear and take it day to day,” said Elkins Mayor Van Broughton.

“I think it went great,” the mayor said of last week’s virtual meeting. “I would like for us to be meeting in person, but when we have to tell people to do social distancing, we have to figure out how to do our day-to-day business in this situation, too.

“I had someone who reached out before the meeting who was interested to see how it went. Afterwards, he got back to me and was very impressed,” Broughton said. “Said it was very clear, could hear everyone’s input.

“He said in times where there has to be social distancing, you do have to change some things. He said Elkins was doing a good job and it was good to see the government is still running in Elkins with transparency and accountability even in these difficult times.”

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