The sign outside Soldotna City Hall is seen here on July 16, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

The sign outside Soldotna City Hall is seen here on July 16, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna to hold city meetings 100% remotely during high-risk level

The move was made in response to growing COVID-19 case numbers.

The City of Soldotna will hold future city meetings remotely in response to growing COVID-19 case numbers on the Kenai Peninsula.

The Soldotna City Council unanimously approved the change at their Wednesday meeting.

The action memo originally presented to the council proposed three different seating arrangements for in-person attendees at meetings in city council chambers that allowed for social distancing. The different scenarios factored in how the number of council members attending in person impacted how many members of the public could attend as well.

City Council member Pamela Parker said the proposal would add more work and stress for planning meetings, and instead proposed moving to remote meetings in light of the borough’s high-risk COVID-19 status.

“It just seems safer and easier for all involved to do entirely remote meetings,” Parker said.

City Council member Jordan Chilson said he has concerns about the council continuing to meet in person despite growing regional case numbers, and would also support 100% remote meetings.

“If you look back when we were fully remote earlier this year, our counts were a fraction of where they are now,” Chilson said. “I’m surprised we haven’t already done that transition back to full remote.”

Even when meetings have been 100% remote, the mayor, the city clerk and the city manager still attended in person, Soldotna City Clerk Shellie Saner said Wednesday, though the city manager often worked in her office. Saner said she has to attend in person in order to run the equipment and presiding officer, usually the mayor, also often attends in person so they can ask questions of the clerk as needed.

Parker made a motion to hold city meetings, including council, board and commission meetings, 100% remotely when the peninsula is in the high risk-level during the COVID-19 pandemic. Chilson seconded the motion, which the council ultimately approved unanimously.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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