[EDITOR’S UPDATE: An error in an earlier version of this post had the borough spending $17,000 on equipment. However the correct amount spent so far by Councilman Steve Boracchia is $17. We apologize for the error.]
ATL. HIGHLANDS – “Sadly, not a soul has contacted us to inquire whether there would be a hybrid option at the next meeting. Unfortunately, everyone jumped to conclusions or sadly assumed there wouldn’t be,” said Councilman Brian Boms, in response to a request for comments on the recently circulated petition about virtual municipal meetings.
Boms responded immediately to a request for comments as did Councilmembers Lori Hohenleitner and Brian Dougherty, but also pointed out “It has always been our intentions to offer the public the most transparency possible.” That is the reason,” he continued, “ why we were ready to move forward with the new software for borough hall.”
The councilman pointed out he and other council members were prepared to vote on the acquisition of new equipment at the last meeting. However, that resolution had to be revised on the advice of the attorney, in order to identify the firm from whom the equipment was being purchased, so the resolution was tabled.
When Council tied on their vote as to whether next Thursday’s council meeting and all future meetings would be held virtually, and the mayor broke the tie in favor of holding meetings at borough hall, a newly formed group AHEAD, circulated a petition calling for virtual meetings and the petition signed by 139 residents was presented in the administration office yesterday.
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Councilman Brian Dougherty, who had voted against holding meetings without Zoom said yesterday “I applaud the 139 petition signers for making their voices known. I strongly believe our democracy is strengthened by more participation. It’s 2022. We truly have no good excuse why we won’t provide an option so that anyone who wishes to participate virtually in their local government can do so. I hope that the February 10 Council meeting – and every meeting thereafter – will be a hybrid meeting.”
Boms had indicated that Councilman Steve Boracchia has been working on a solution to enable hybrid meetings. As part of the Technology committee, he has reviewed the current equipment at borough hall, assessed the equipment and purchased some equipment that later appeared to test successfully and offer communication without reverberation. Boms said he and Borrachia are continuing to work on the equipment with the purchases he made…approximately $17.00 and both are hopeful and confident the equipment will now be effective in allowing hybrid meetings, meaning meetings where the public can both be in borough hall or at home with equal opportunity to participate in the meeting.