ST. GEORGE — As part of a meeting where speakers had to be brought in one at a time because of COVID-19 social distancing, the Ivins City Council announced a soft closure of Ivins City Hall effective Friday and also set procedures for future meetings to be conducted electronically.
The soft closure involves City Hall being closed except to those who set appointments with city officials.
“We need to protect our staff,” Mayor Chris Hart said.
Many functions for which members of the community usually go to City Hall, including setting up water services or applying for a building permit, have already been moved online to the city website.
The City Council also approved by a 4-0 vote, with Councilwoman Jenny Johnson absent, a temporary adjustment to allow council meetings to be conducted in the near future electronically, with some council members participating through a form of video conference.
The measures come in the wake of the U.S. government recommendation that all public gatherings be limited to 10 or less people and an executive order by Gov. Gary Herbert Wednesday to allow government meetings in the state to be conducted electronically.
Thursday’s meeting, while not conducted electronically, still adhered to the 10-or-less recommendation. Those seeking to make comment were left in a waiting area outside and came into the chamber escorted by law enforcement, then were directed out of the chamber when they finished.
Some were in their cars just outside the front doors of City Hall and would receive a phone call when it was their turn to speak.
“We’re kind of using a batting order approach here,” City Manager Dale Coulam told the council.
In another sign of the COVID-19 times, Councilwoman Miriah Elliott told speakers coming in to take a moment to wipe down the podium and microphone after they spoke.
In a moment that drew loud laughs in the mostly empty chamber, Hart misspoke and told one speaker, “Make sure to wipe yourself down.”
The council also heard comments provided through a link for public comments on the city website, which will likely be a method used for meetings in the near future
Additionally, council members themselves were spaced out more than normal, to maintain a 6-foot difference between them.
Hart expressed not wanting to stop council meetings indefinitely as has been the case in other localities.
“We may be able to delay public hearings in the future, but we will have actions that we need to act on,” Hart said. “We have a governmental responsibility. Otherwise, what are we doing here?”
As part of the approved measure, City Council meetings during the national emergency will use the council chamber in City Hall as an “anchor” location, with other council members being a part of the meeting from their own remote locations. The next scheduled meeting is still set for April 3, though the council will have the option of canceling no less than 24 hours before the meeting.
Though many on the council expressed the desire for the public to hear and see the meetings, currently, only the audio of meetings can be heard live on the city website.
“We are responsible to the public, and the public needs to be fully aware of all our dealings and proceedings, including viewing us,” Councilman Dennis Mehr said.
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