By Chad Ingram
The fundraising committee for the Minden Hills arena project will begin convening meetings virtually, acting as a guinea pig for the re-establishment of township advisory committee meetings in an online format.
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, all meetings of councils and advisory committees within the county were initially cancelled. Later in the spring, the provincial government passed special legislation allowing municipal councils and committees to meet electronically, and shortly thereafter, councils in the county began holding online meetings. Meetings are conducted with members participating remotely through online conferencing app Zoom and live-streamed to the public via YouTube.
“As we make the journey back to some normalcy, it took a while for council to get in our new normal, I’m excited to see the first of many committees that we have, that there’s potentially a path back to that,” said Mayor Brent Devolin during a Nov. 12 committee-of-the-whole meeting.
The township has a dozen committees of council in total. Along with the arena fundraising committee, there is the arena building task force; cemetery board; climate change action committee; cultural centre advisory committee; events committee; housing task force; the Irondale hall committee; the Lochlin hall committee; the planning and development committee; the roads committee; and the septic re-inspection program task force.
It was the recommendation of chief administrative officer Trisha McKibbin that the arena fundraising committee begin meeting, and that it essentially be used as a trial, with more committee meetings added after the dynamics have been worked out.
“We do know that committees of council are wanting to meet and get back to work, but we . . . are aware that it does require a little more staff time and attention to do the meetings virtually,” McKibbin said.
“There is a requirement that the meetings are public,” she continued, saying her preference was for committee meetings to be live-streamed in the same fashion as council meetings.
Councillor Bob Carter wondered about recording meetings and then broadcasting them publicly afterward, to reduce the pressure on staff and associated costs.
McKibbin said it was her preference for meetings to be live-streamed so that they are publicly available at the time they are happening.
“During this process, we’ll explore all of the options,” she told Carter.
An initial fundraising committee that had been struck to raise money to help offset the nearly $13-million price tag for the township’s new arena was essentially disbanded late last year following criticism from some councillors and members of the public that it contained too many municipal staffers. The fundraising goal for the committee, set before the pandemic began, had been $750,000.
In August, a new fundraising committee was struck through a motion of council, that committee consisting of Councillor Jennifer Hughey, Eric Casper, Emma Hamilton, Betty Mark and McKibbin.