The Vernon Township Council on Oct. 14 unanimously tabled an ordinance that would have put an end to hybrid council meetings to wait for further information.
The changes to the council meeting ordinance would have limited public comment to individuals attending the meeting in person during both public comment periods.
While several early speakers bemoaned the loss of the Zoom platform for those who are unable to attend the twice-monthly council meeting in-person for whatever reason.
Councilman Brian Lynch said he was in favor of keeping the Zoom option and that his problems with it have nothing to do with public participation.
“It’s got everything to do with the mechanics of doing it,” Lynch said. “We already had to cancel our first meeting of the year because the Internet was down. I don’t want to miss an emergent issue because we can’t get online.”
He asked township attorney Martin Townes if it was possible to continue to have the in-person portion of the meeting if the Internet is down.
Townes said he wasn’t sure because the township has to advertise avenues in which the public can participate in the meeting. If a Zoom option is available for participation, it must be advertised in the meeting announcement. Townes said other municipalities he deals with have had to cancel meetings in the event of Internet connectivity issues.
“My vote would change dramatically if we could (have the meeting if the Internet went down),” Lynch said. “If we can continue with our business, even though the Internet is unavailable due to technical difficulty. The town needs to keep running. The Internet does not run Vernon. We run Vernon. We cannot allow technology to put a roadblock up in the work we have to do.”
Councilman Michael Furrey was originally concerned about the change and said the township has benefited from the increased public participation the hybrid portion has brought.
“I know this township spent a significant amount of money in all this technology you see here to just for allow for the return of meetings in person hybrid meetings,” he said.
He said he would support a change in the ordinance if the council could continue with a meeting in the event of an Internet outage.