Mayor David Allaire urged the Board of Aldermen to start meeting in person again, but board members said Monday they weren’t quite ready.
The board has not met in person since March 2020. Allaire said last week he held a department head meeting in the Aldermen’s chambers for the first time since the pandemic.
“Socially distanced, masked,” Allaire said of the meeting. “I felt comfortable, and I think everyone else felt comfortable.”
Allaire said new guidelines released by the state last week opened the door for in-person meetings of public boards and noted that even after a year, the meetings were still marred by technical difficulties, particularly in the last few weeks.
“I think the state is very clearly loosening things up,” Allaire said. “I am feeling much more comfortable about the possibility and the likelihood this group and others in city government can begin meeting in person. ... It’s time to get us together in the same room.”
Allaire suggested it could happen as soon as the board’s next regularly scheduled meeting on May 17.
“It’s your meeting ... but from my vantage point, we’re ready at City Hall,” he said.
Alderman Thomas DePoy pointed out that a motion he made on returning to in-person meetings was still awaiting a committee meeting, and he said he thought that meeting should happen before the board makes a return to the chambers.
“We need to figure out exactly how we’re going to do it,” DePoy said. “There may be some members of the public who are not ready to go into that kind of setting.”
DePoy said he would like to see some sort of hybrid system giving people the option of attending remotely, and noted that he was participating from New York and would not have been able to attend an in-person meeting that night.
Alderwoman Sharon Davis said she had questions she would need answered before supporting a return to in-person meetings, including whether they would have to limit entry based on the square footage of the chambers and whether there would need to be rules regarding unvaccinated people attending meetings.
Alderman Sam Gorruso said he was very interested in information that had been distributed to the board regarding proposed new rules for electronic meetings and said he would like to see discussions on converting permanently to the sort of hybrid format suggested by DePoy.
“Think about snowstorms,” he said. “We could have a major blizzard and still have a meeting.”
Recreation Superintendent Kim Peters said she could set up a trial run at the community center gym if a larger space than the chambers was needed.
Allaire said he did not disagree with any of the comments made, but he wanted to “spur along” the conversation. Ultimately, the mayor said, he believed the city as a whole would benefit from having the board back in one room together.