The Town is launching the ability of residents to comment during virtual public meetings. The “public comment” function will premier during tonight’s Board of Selectmen meeting. It is the first time since the pandemic forced the Town to eliminate in-person board/committee meetings that the public will be able to participate.
An announcement was released today by BOS Chair Brian Shea. It appears that despite public comment being listed as the second item on the agenda, it will actually be last.
The announcement explains how the function will work. (You can view that document here.) It explains:
To participate in Public Comment, there is a “Raise Hand” icon once you are in Zoom. Due to time commitments of Board members, I plan to go to Public Comment at the end of our meeting. If there are those in Town that would like to offer a Public Comment, this would be an opportunity to do so. Similar to requirements that we have at a “normal meeting”, participants will be required to state their name and address, and follow public comments guidelines that we have in place.
The document points readers to access the Virtual Meeting information via a button on the home page under the Citizen Action Center. That leads to the page southboroughtown.com/remotemeetings. The page currently lists three meetings, only two of which show the ability to use the public comment feature. As of now, the second chance for public comment is during a Public Safety Building Committee meeting scheduled for April 2nd at 7:00 pm.
The announcement explains that in addition to allowing comments to selectmen tonight, the meeting serves to test the Town’s ability to proceed with future agenda items that call for more public input:
Our Board (and others) will be limited to holding meetings through Zoom for the foreseeable future. To date, we have limited agenda items to Covid-19 related topics, and not take on items that would otherwise invite and warrant public participation and discussion. With an indefinite timeframe that we will be meeting in this manner, at some point Boards will need to add such items to their agendas, and we need to be prepared for how to best allow for participation from the public in a Zoom meeting environment.
To assist us in preparing for meetings that will have public participation, we have added Public Comment to our agenda tonight, in part as a way for us to test out the ability for members of the public to join and participate in this meeting.
Part of the success of efforts will depend on how responsibly the option is used by the public:
While we are well aware of potential adverse consequences, which will be immediately shut down should the need arise, we trust that all in Town understand that we are in this together, and that we will all act responsibly so that this forum can be relied upon moving forward.
That statement may be prompted by recent news stories on zoombombing of video conference calls by internet trolls.
The meeting starts at 6:30 pm and includes updates on the Covid-19 situation, discussion of the Acceler8 project to replace MassPike bridges, and a vote to enter a MSBA Project Funding Agreement for an Accelerated Repair Program for Finn Elementary School.
Here are the links for tonight’s revised agenda and materials packet.