Consistent with the governor's orders suspending certain provisions of the open meeting law and banning gatherings of more than 25 people, Tuesday night's City Council and Budget & Finance meetings will be conducted by remote participation. 

For those interested in viewing both meetings, the city of Gloucester has set up a Zoom account which can be accessed by going to http://gloucester-ma.gov/remote-public-meetings. Zoom is a video and audio conferencing software application.

"The public may not physically attend this meeting but every effort will be made to allow the public to view and listen to the meeting in real-time,"was written on the agenda for Tuesday's meeting. 

Earlier this month, Gov. Charlie Baker issued an executive order modifying requirements of the open meeting law to allow public bodies to continue to conduct responsibilities while following the public health recommendations of social distancing. 

This includes allowing official city meetings to be conducted remotely as long as the public is provided with adequate access to view them. 

"We are going to run a regular council meeting with a flag salute and oral communication," City Council President Steve LeBlanc Jr. said. "I am looking forward to it, most likely from my kitchen table."

While the city works to keep "business as usual," LeBlanc explained, councilors plan to keep conversation focused. 

"We are going to try and keep the agendas as light as possible for the next couple of weeks until this is cleared up," he said. 

Main talking points

Prior to the City Council meeting, the Budget & Finance Committee will be having a special meeting at 6:30 p.m.  

"(Tuesday) is our first go around so there may be some glitches so bear with us," Chairperson and City Councilor Melissa Cox said in regards to streaming the meetings via Zoom. 

This special Budget & Finance meeting will discuss: 

1. A memorandum from the city's CFO John Dunn requesting acceptance of a Construction Manager at Risk Procurement Method for the East Gloucester/Veterans Memorial Consolidation Elementary School project. 

2. A supplemental appropriation-budgetary request for $17,300 from Dunn in regards to acquiring COVID-19 preparation expenses which includes supplies, temporary nursing coverage, and an increase to the city's public relations contract: 

$5,000 to purchase supplies.

$1,050 to be used for public notices and press releases through the city's contracted public relations agency.

$11,250 to be available to cover the cost of a contract, temporary on-call nurse to help deliver critical support to the City's more vulnerable populations.

In his letter to the mayor, Dunn recommended that the city fund Public Health Director Karin Carroll's request with an appropriation from General Fund Free Cash.  

The Budget & Finance meeting agenda topics will be the main topics of conversation at the City Council meeting that same night. 

"We have basically have got two items which are time sensitive," LeBlanc said. 

The two public hearings originally scheduled have been postponed until the next City Council meeting set for April 14. 

These hearings will discuss building heights in excess of 35 feet for properties on Wingaersheek Road and Essex Avenue. 

If the meetings via Zoom are unworkable, an audio or video recording, transcript or other comprehensive record will be made available on the city's website after the meeting. 

"I think it is going to go really smooth," LeBlanc said. "Maybe this is the future 20 or 30 years down the line for running these meetings. Which is kind of weird but I have total confidence."

Staff writer Taylor Ann Bradford can be reached at 978-675-2705 or tbradford@gloucestertimes.com

How to participate

Who and what: City Council and its Budget & Finance Committee consider raising $17,300 for expenses related to the COVID-19 virus and a procurement method for the proposed combined elementary school project.

When: Tuesday, March 24, at 6:30 p.m.

Where: http://gloucester-ma.gov/remote-public-meetings.

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