DRAYTON – The Township of Mapleton got personal Thursday, holding what is believed to be the first in-person public council meeting of any municipality in the region in months.
The meeting drew a handful of community members to the PMD Arena in Drayton.
This meeting could happen because the WDG Public Health region entered Stage 3. There were some public health protocols that needed to be followed to safely hold the meeting.
Chairs were spaced two metres apart from each other, an automatic hand sanitizer station was in the entrance and all attendees had to provide a form of contact in case tracing is necessary.
PMD Arena was chosen to hold this meeting because their usual council chamber doesn’t have the space available for social distancing. Davidson said they are considering holding meetings at different community centres across the municipality.
“It’s a prime opportunity for us to bring the council to the different communities,” Mayor Gregg Davidson said in an interview. “That’s what we’re planning on doing as the stages move forward.”
The arena is usually features hockey, skating, indoor sports, parties and exhibits. Thursday evening saw township council, staff and a few community members come out to discuss how to move forward with water and wastewater expansion in the town.
There have been no in-person public council meetings in Wellington County or the City of Guelph since mid-March.
Davidson said it felt good to have council back together and in-person meetings are easier to run as chair.
“It’s very difficult to have discussions openly on zoom or phone conference,” Davidson said. “For me running the meeting, I have to flip pages (on Zoom) to find council members because they’re not all lined up. Here I can see if they want to talk.”
The mayor said another good aspect of in-person meetings is community engagement.
“Some of the conversations you have before or after the meeting are very important to understand people’s direction and what they’re thinking,” Davidson said.
At the meeting, council discussed how to move forward with their water and wastewater expansion to meet future needs of the town. Davidson said this meeting needed to be held in public because of the scope of the project.
“We’re talking $15-to-$30 million in projects over a period of time,” Davidson said.
“I believe that kind of conversation needs to be in-person. It’s very hard to have those conversations over zoom or audio conferencing. It came to the time of when it turned to Stage 3 and we were able to do it, this was a prime one to choose to start us off.”