Tempe City Hall along with other city facilities are tentatively set to reopen on the heels of lessening public restrictions due to COVID-19.
The proposed timeline recommends that remote employees begin returning to city facilities and that facilities be open to the public again among other recommendations on June 1.
City Manager Andrew Ching presented further updates from the timeline’s committee to the mayor and City Council at the May 6 work-study session.
“I know that the committee has continued to work in the interim to look at this and there are a couple of things that they are recommending, or at least bringing forward, as additional recommendations that I wanted to make the council aware of,” Mr. Ching said.
Among the recommendations discussed was to continue offering the option to attend city meetings virtually.
“That’s an important thing because ... having the opportunity to have flexibility if someone happens to not be in the office that day for whatever reason, they can continue to participate at an equal level with the employees who are in the office,” Mr. Ching said.
Keeping the online option for meetings would not only benefit city employees though, as city meetings have seen some success with public input.
Mr. Ching explained that going forward City Council should also consider whether they are satisfied with the level of public participation because of the virtual platform’s benefits.
“There may very well be members of our community who for whatever reason whether its work conflicts, physical limitations or otherwise, are able to stream and participate in the virtual meetings better than their ability to actually physically be present in the chambers,” he noted.
Given the increase of public attendance online, Mr. Ching asked the council to consider what kind of distancing modifications would need to be put in place once they open like distanced and labeled seating.
The other recommendation brought forth was for city staff who present and certain members of the public like those with zoning appeals to attend meetings in person, unless there are extenuating circumstances.
“We would continue utilizing the WebEx program for that purpose to allow for members of the public, to allow for staff so that they can yield seats that would otherwise be occupied potentially,” Mr. Ching said.
City staff and members of the community who are not required to be in-person would have the option to attend meetings virtually in order to maintain distancing and capacity limits.
Following the presentation, Mr. Ching asked council members what they thought about the additional recommendations along with if they were comfortable with the reopening.
Mayor Corey Woods spoke after Mr. Ching mentioned their conversations about the timeline and reopening after the council takes its break in July.
“I think that’s good timing to return to the chambers [and] I also think that we should still mark off some chairs to provide some level of distancing for people who are coming back in whether it’s residents or frankly for the health and well-being of our employees,” Mayor Woods said.
He also expressed his support of the continuation of the virtual meeting platform because of the increase in public participation and concern for the general public’s comfort with returning to the chambers.
Support for the August reopening timeline was unanimous among the councilmembers with some confusion about including an electronic voting system and the virtual participation, which was settled by Mr. Ching.
“I would vote for coming back in August to the chambers right after the council’s vacation to still do a little bit of spacing in the chambers and to still allow some virtual options for people to participate online,” Mayor Woods said.