The Pasco County Commission imposed a number of restrictions on its public meetings, to reduce potential spread of COVID-19.
No one was allowed in the board’s meeting room except for board members and county staff.
Meeting participants had to speak from a kiosk, from outside of the board’s chambers, or take part remotely, via WebEx.
Masks were required, too.
Those who wished to participate could send emails to be read aloud into the record.
Over time, the rules were relaxed, allowing a specific number of people to be in the meeting room — while others had to stay in a waiting area.
Now, the board has resumed its normal operations.
The kiosks are gone and emails no longer will be read into the record.
But, the board has decided to keep the WebEx option for people who want to participate in meetings remotely.
Chief Assistant David Goldstein explained the changes to the Pasco County Planning Commission at its July 8 meeting.
The new rules apply to both the county board and to the county planning board, Goldstein said.
“I think the board has gotten used to allowing WebEx as a participation option, unrelated to COVID,” the attorney said.
“For example, if someone has something on the consent agenda, they don’t want to sit here for four hours, if they can just monitor WebEx. Or, you may have a member of the public that has to work that day. Or, somebody’s sick and they don’t want to be contagious in the board room.
“There are multiple reasons why the board felt it was a more convenient option for some citizens to be able to participate by WebEx,” Goldstein said.
“The board has had some criticism by some members of the public that all of our meetings occur during the day.
“They can’t attend our planning commission or our board meetings at 1:30 (p.m.).
“So, it is an option for somebody who works all day, that they can do it from their office,” Goldstein said.
While they decided to make WebEx a permanent participation option for board meetings and for planning commission meetings, applicants with an item on the regular agenda must have a representative who is physically present at the meeting, Goldstein said.
That requirement stems from some occasions when technical glitches caused communication problems between the board and WebEx participants, the attorney explained.
Planning Commission Chairman Charles Grey expressed concerns that the WebEx system could be logjammed, but Goldstein said he hasn’t seen any abuse of the system.
Planning Commissioner Peter Hanzel said he initially resisted remote models because he prefers to have people physically present, where he can see them.
But, Hanzel said he now realizes that such technology serves a useful purpose because it enables people to participate who otherwise might be unable to do so.
Published July 21, 2021