Warren County commissioners have taken a united stand against the use of Zoom meetings to conduct business and County Executive Jimmy Haley’s decision to close the administration building for in-person meetings.
The Warren County Commission unanimously voted Monday night to meet in person in October at Warren County Administrative Offices on Locust Street.
That motion came with contingencies. If not there, commissioners would be at Park Theater on Main Street. If neither of those is possible, Zoom will be used.
Back in July, commissioners voted 18-4 in favor of their August session being held in person. That effort was unsuccessful. While commissioners have the authority to set the day, time and location of their meeting, Haley has control of the building. Haley refused to allow commissioners use of the administrative building, so the August session was canceled.
Monday night’s session of the commission was conducted via video online conferencing, a venue that some commissioners argue has resulted in recurring difficulties in conducting business such as webcam and audio not working, echoes during calls, difficulties accessing the meetings, dropped calls when commissioners use cellphones and not computers, and situations when attendees forget to mute their audio during the meeting.
Those difficulties continued to occur this month.
Changing their stance against in-person meetings were Commissioners Christy Ross, Carlene Brown, Deborah Evans and Daniel Owens.
Prior to the vote, Brown questioned Haley’s intent.
“We had a meeting before this discussion about the possibility of doing it in person in October, if possible,” answered Haley. “There’s no reason for it not to be. We just have to make sure that every commissioner feels safe with meeting in person and that every commissioner who attends that meeting will subscribe to the county policy on temperature checks, wearing masks and social distancing, just like it has been required in the past. If commissioners will subscribe to those rules, there should be no problem with meeting in October.”
Commissioner Blaine Wilcher suggested Park Theater as an alternative venue.
“I have contacted Park Theater and we could rent it,” said Wilcher. “They can host as many has 100 people with social distancing, as required. If we cannot meet in the admin building that is something I would like to consider.”
That rental would cost county taxpayers $200.
Commissioner Cole Taylor said it is time to stop playing games.
“Executive Haley, I hope and pray that we can work together and get our county building back open,” said Taylor. “No. 1, so that we can have county business meetings there and No. 2, so our county taxpayers will be able use it like they are supposed to. We don’t always agree. We don’t always get along, but let’s quit playing cat and mouse and get these things opened back up and let’s go back to work.”
The statement was met with cheers and comments of approval from several commissioners.