BERLIN – As efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 continue, the Town of Berlin will begin livestreaming council meetings.
Mayor Gee Williams announced Monday that the town council would hold its first budget work session April 13. The public will be provided with information on how to tune in electronically in the coming days.
“As the situation changes, we urge all citizens in our community to make decisions with an abundance of caution and obey the ‘stay-at-home order’ issued by Gov. Larry Hogan,” Williams said in a statement Monday. “The expected peak of the spread of COVID-19 in Maryland remains unknown at this time.”
Though recent meetings were canceled due to the ongoing health crisis, Williams said the council would hold a general fund budget work session at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, April 13. Immediately after the work session, a regular meeting of the council will be held at 7 p.m. Though council members will be at town hall for the meetings, no more than three town employees will be in attendance. Departmental budget requests will be made by one person at a time.
“We’re going to be testing the setup we have tomorrow,” Williams said in an interview Wednesday. “We want to work out all the bugs we can.”
He said officials were planning to use Microsoft Teams to conduct the meeting, as the town already had access to it.
He added that if the livestreaming went well, the town would continue it even after social distancing ended so that citizens unable to attend the meetings in person could still tune in.
“Maybe that will make the meetings more accessible,” he said.
Citizens are invited to submit comments and questions in advance of meetings via email or text, fax, or mail. They can also be placed in the drop box at town hall. Questions, which must be received no later than noon on the day of a meeting, will be compiled for officials to review and discus during the meeting.
A second budget work session, to focus on utilities, will be held Monday, April 20. An updated budget schedule released by the town this week shows that a public hearing on tax rate and the introduction of the budget are set to occur via livestream May 11. Williams announced last week he would no longer be advocating for the three-cent tax increase he initially proposed.
A public hearing on the budget to be held via livestream is set for May 26.
In further efforts to combat the spread of the virus, Williams said that the town had also tweaked its operations to allow employees who could work remotely to do so. Employees are also alternating so that some are on site Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday while others are present Monday/Wednesday/Friday.
“I’m very grateful that people in our community are taking this very seriously,” he said.