With some Gloucester boards and commissions already meeting in person and more expected to join in mid-September, the city’s IT Department is working on how to make sure the content is as accessible to the public as possible. 

Director of Information Services Ryan Knowles explained at Tuesday’s City Council meeting that his team has been thinking about how it can address any concerns that might be present among staff or citizens as the city’s administration are expecting boards and commissions to go back to in-person meetings as of Sept. 15. 

“The pandemic occasioned by the spread of the novel SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19), and the consequent need for regular city business to continue while maintaining proper social distancing and reduction in gatherings provided an important moment in our collective history to consider what an ‘open meeting’ is,” Knowles said. 

He added that the technological capabilities of platforms such as Zoom and the legislation passed by the state government have allowed for regular city meetings to occur remotely. 

City Council President Steve LeBlanc explained that the City Council is not subject to the September deadline and will continue to deliberate on Zoom about best next steps for its open meetings.

"These remote meetings are a slam dunk," he added. "They are twice as effective as in-person meetings." 

The primary spaces that host public meetings are City Hall’s Kyrouz Auditorium and City Council Chambers, Sawyer Free Library’s Friend Room, the Harbormaster’s Meeting Room, CATA Meeting Room in City Hall Annex, and the Rose Baker Senior Center. 

All of the spaces but the Kyrouz Auditorium will be ready for hybrid, in-person meetings on Sept. 15. 

Knowles informed the Times in a follow-up conversation that his team is working with 1623 Studios to find a way to stream each meeting.

As the IT Department looks at each space that has historically held meetings for the public, it now has to think about scheduling, after-hours access, custodial coverage, technological capabilities, and capacity. 

Knowles said that one of the biggest hurdles his staff is going to run into is scheduling for coverage of meetings. This, he said, could be smoothed out by using Google Calendar.docs-internal-guid-e27a8bd8-7fff-274a-63f5-3eff6d738036

Staff writer Taylor Ann Bradford may be contacted at 978-675-2705, tbradford@gloucestertimes.com or on Twitter at TayBradford97.

 

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