2021 | Government

County Council will continue meeting virtually at least into the fall

Construction, spread of Delta variant delaying return of in-person meetings

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The Montgomery County Council will not reconvene in person in Rockville on Sept. 14, postponing its previous plan.

County Council President Tom Hucker told reporters during a press briefing Monday that the delay is due to the spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus and construction in a third-floor hearing room at the council office building.

The county’s Board of Education met on Aug. 24 for the first time in person since the beginning of the pandemic.

The County Council stopped meeting in person in late March 2020. All of its meetings since then have been virtual.

The public can still watch the council’s meetings on YouTube or Facebook, and can sign up to testify via Zoom, the software members and staff have been using to meet virtually. 

Hucker said he wished the construction in the third-floor hearing room was completed sooner, but added that many construction projects during the pandemic have been delayed due to a shortage of workers and contractors. 

Hucker and Council Vice President Gabe Albornoz said individual council members will return to hosting in-person meetings in their offices after Labor Day, following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

“Just because we’re not going to be able to host our hearings publicly as we had initially anticipated … that doesn’t mean the council is working virtually across the board,” Albornoz said.

Hucker didn’t have an exact date for when the council could return to hosting meetings, other than the fall or winter. He and Albornoz said there has been more participation from residents across the county through virtual meetings, especially from a more diverse audience. 

That includes parents who might need to watch kids, or those who can’t get to the council building in Rockville.

“A lot people who do not have the ability to hop in a car and drive to Rockville can now testify via Zoom, which I think is a great thing for all of us in office, because we’re hearing from a greater diversity of our residents,” Hucker said. 

County staff members are also working to conduct multiple public hearings and committee meetings at the same time in a virtual format, Hucker said.

The issue, he said, was figuring out how to run multiple committee meetings and/or public hearings at the same time using one platform, Zoom.

“It seems like a solvable problem that our staff [has] been working on,” Hucker said. 

Steve Bohnel can be reached at steve.bohnel@bethesdamagazine.com