Warwick will continue online meetings

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Councillor who owns a retirement home wants to “ensure everybody I’m with is vaccinated”

Warwick Township council isn’t ready to return to in person meetings just yet.

Councillor Wayne Morris during the township’s July meeting while discussing what technology should be purchased to continue streaming council meetings, suggested he would like to return to in person council meetings. But Councillor Todd White, who owns Brookeside Retirement Home, isn’t on the same page.

“With my business, I would like to ensure everybody I’m with is vaccinated,” he said. Seniors are the most vulnerable to COVID-19 and during the pandemic thousands living in care in Ontario died of the virus before the vaccine was available.

White wants to continue attending meetings virtually and would be comfortable doing that while other council members met in person. “I may still come with YouTube unless we have vaccination certificates for everyone who is there.”

Mayor Jackie Rombouts says the new council chambers, expected to be ready early next year, would allow that. Right now, Warwick would need more technology to continue to live stream. The technology which would allow some councillors to meet in person and others to join the meeting remotely would cost about $20,000 instead of the $2,000 in equipment to allow in person meetings to be live streamed.

Deputy Mayor Jerry Westgate suggested it might not be needed; “Is everybody double vaccinated right now?” he asked.

“I don’t think that’s appropriate to ask,” interjected Rombouts.

“We’re not through this COVID thing yet,” says White. “If we go back, I think we have to have some fairly clear and strict polices on what our expectations are of everyone, including ourselves around the table, or I won’t be there.”

Warwick’s CAO said any municipal business would follow provincial protocols including limits to capacity of a meeting, using masks, filling out a screening questionnaire and using hand sanitizer.

Rombouts agreed with White that COVID is still a problem; “There is evidence saying even people who are double vaccinated are still contracting COVID and still passing it on; so that’s not an assurance that we are 100 per cent out of the woods yet.”

“I just have to look out for my residents and my livelihood and I’m just not going to risk it for a council meeting – sorry,” said White.

“Personally, at this point, I think it is important to take into consideration everyone’s feelings,” said Rombouts. “I’m sure even Councillor White would like to meet in person, but we have to be respectful of everyone.”

“I would love to meet in person, but I don’t completely understand the risks of that either yet,” says White.

Council decided to continue meeting virtually until at least October and won’t spend the money on extra technology.

“I just think the investment is pretty high for six months of use, when we have technology we are using,” says Rombouts.

“I’m in no rush to spend $20,000 for no reason,” added Westgate.