As Farmington city council members approved a rule change Monday related to remote meetings, they also discussed retaining remote public comments.
COVID-related changes to the Open Meetings Act allow officials to meet electronically for any reason through March 31. From April 1 through the end of the year, they must generally meet in person, but accommodate remote attendance for members absent due to military service or a medical emergency, and a declared statewide or local state of emergency or state of disaster.
After January 1, 2022, officials can only offer remote attendance to members absent for military duty.
Along with all other local government bodies, Farmington council members have been meeting on a videoconferencing platform since March of 2020. Residents can comment by logging in to the meeting, and council member Maria Taylor asked what it would take to continue the practice.
“Farmington’s transparent,” she said, “but that would really up our accessibility.”
Mayor Sara Bowman pointed out that the question had many aspects, including a technical side. She said in-person meetings are open and comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“We have no capabilities at this point,” she said. “I think it’s a much bigger question… I don’t think there’s an issue with accessibility.”
Bowman also had an issue with residents commenting but not hearing the council discussion.
“I don’t think you get the same feel as when you’re looking at a screen,” she said. “What you lose out on with public comment is people phone in and give their comment and you don’t hear the rest of the meeting. I don’t think you’re getting the full effect.”
Taylor originally asked for a response by March 31, but agreed to a less defined period of time.