Supervisors sign off from virtual meetings

The Tulare County Board of Supervisors announces the end of teleconferencing via Zoom, moves into solely in-person meetings; video will still be streamed to YouTube

TULARE COUNTY – Though the pandemic was a driving force for many governing bodies to implement Zoom meetings, it wasn’t entirely the motive for the Tulare County Board of Supervisors. 

For an entire year, they were allowing virtual meetings due to the remodel on the board chambers. However, chair Dennis Townsend said that the need for Zoom meetings is over now that the remodel is done. Starting this month, the board will no longer host meetings via Zoom.

“The simplest thing to do was to do a Zoom [option] and allow the public interaction there,” Townsend said. “Our Zoom option was not specifically because of the pandemic, it was more because we moved out of our facility.”

Townsend said the meetings will still be streamed on YouTube, the only difference will be that residents can’t make public comments online anymore. However, people are welcomed to send in letters or call in their public comments, that way they can still be addressed in the in-person meetings. The board’s next meeting on Feb. 7 will be the first one without Zoom since the dawn of the pandemic. 

“People can always feel free to [submit] comments via the email that goes to the supervisors, and also give a call to the main phone line here,” Townsend said. “Also, everyone’s welcome to show up in person.”

In the case of another state emergency, the board would easily be able to roll back into a remote attendance per Gov. Gavin Nesom’s available extension of the teleconferencing option. The virtual meeting option is available to be reenacted even for reasons falling outside the realm of COVID-19. Any type of disaster or safety hazard could allow for the board to bring back the teleconference option up until January 2024. However, the board currently has no plans to bring virtual meetings back.

“It was justified to have board members participate via Zoom because of the pandemic regulations, and the suspension of the Brown Act so that we can do a video conferencing,” Townsend said. “We always did have YouTube, where you can go on and listen to all the meetings anytime. But the public comment would revert back to you coming in person or sending a letter or an email or call.”

The board chambers was one of the last buildings to undergo remodeling for ADA compliance and energy upgrades, causing the board to relocate their meetings in the human resource and development building. Townsend said that implementing Zoom during the remodel was necessary since the temporary meeting location was much smaller, but also harder to find.

Before the state of emergency caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, board members were required to attend meetings in person, and if they missed multiple meetings they could be removed from their position. In person meetings are just around the corner for most governing bodies though, as the state of emergency teleconferencing option is ending in late February.

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