Chambersburg citizens can attend Borough Council meetings using the Zoom platform for another six weeks, council decided this week. Beginning in March, they must attend in person.
Council voted 6-4 Monday night to discontinue the Zoom broadcasts as of Feb. 28. Council meets one more time this month and twice in February.
Members discussed a move to revoke the town’s new non-discrimination ordinance during its reorganization meeting Jan.3. Council will discuss and possibly vote on that issue at the Jan. 24 meeting.
Zoom access to public meetings result from pandemic restrictions placed on gatherings in early 2020; but many of this week’s participants said they would like to see them continue. Some questioned the majority decision to eliminate the venue next month, calling it “troubling.”
Council President Allen Cauffman said Council meetings have always been open to the public, long before Zoom technology was available; and will remain so after the need for the technology ends.
Some in the Zoom audience argued that making meetings available on Zoom provided better access than simply opening Council chambers to the public on meeting nights, however.
More than a debate platform
Both Chambersburg resident Matt McBride, a Wilson College employee and parent of a young child, and his wife work and find it difficult to get out at night to attend meetings in person. He described Zoom access as more than a way to let the public debate issues or get their views before Council. It is also a way to keep the public informed, he said.
“(If) your goal is to get as many people as possible (involved), its troubling that you want to shut this down,” he said.
McBride was one of several dozen attendees on the Zoom meeting platform that night. Several were vocal about some of the night’s issues; but discussion about ending Zoom participation drew the most response from that audience segment.
Council members Cathy Leedy and Alice Elia talked about the importance of providing an alternative to physical attendance at meetings.
“I think it’s important for the public to see what we do,” Leedy said. “I can’t see a reason not to continue when we have this technology available.”
“Zoom is a great way to provide access (to meetings),” Elia said. “(It is) really important to continue to offer this option.”