SUNDRE — Although plans have changed substantially, council still intends to hold its annual spring workshop.
The weekend-long meeting was originally scheduled earlier this year to be held in April in Red Deer, but the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns threw a wrench into those gears.
During a teleconference of the regular May 4 meeting, chief administrative officer Linda Nelson sought direction from council on whether to proceed with conducting the workshop through electronic means.
The workshop’s priority is for council to outline objectives for the following year, with staff then preparing information based on council’s directives to be brought back for further review and discussion during the fall workshop, said Nelson, adding the process plays a major role in preparing budget updates.
Coun. Paul Isaac said he understands the importance of the spring workshop, but expressed a firm preference to meet in person.
“I would not really want to be in a teleconference spring workshop,” said Isaac.
Coun. Richard Warnock agreed, pointing out gatherings of as many as 15 people are not prohibited. He said Sundre has facilities such as the community centre that could easily facilitate physical distancing measures.
“There’s lots of room where we can set up and do proper separation,” said Warnock, adding individual department managers’ presentations could be scheduled in a staggered fashion so only one would have to come in at a time.
“There’s things we can do to bring this forward,” he said, speaking against a teleconference workshop.
Coun. Rob Wolfe also spoke against a teleconference meeting, but expressed concerns about a potential financial penalty if the booking at the accommodations in Red Deer were cancelled.
“We could actually hold our fall workshop in Red Deer if council prefers,” said Nelson, to which Wolfe was agreeable.
While Coun. Charlene Preston was not opposed to a teleconference workshop, she agreed with Warnock that the community centre is an ideal location under the circumstances.
“We’re not going to be over 15 people anyway,” she said, adding the workshop should proceed sooner rather than later.
Coun. Todd Dalke also preferred meeting in person at the community centre, but was not opposed to a teleconference meeting if absolutely required, provided all members of council had access to a camera.
The councillor later added that any staff members who might not be comfortable with meeting at the community centre could instead remotely provide their presentations to council by electronic means.
Coun. Cheri Funke said the workshop should not be delayed a moment longer than necessary.
“Regardless of what happens in our community and the world, 2021 is still going to come and we’re still going to move on,” she said, urging council to conduct the meeting as soon as possible, and preferably in person provided physical distancing measures can be adhered to.
Mayor Terry Leslie spoke against meeting virtually and suggested postponing the workshop until council can use a local facility while following provincial health guidelines.
Nelson said administration would take council’s feedback as direction to make plans to proceed with the spring workshop within the following month or so, and encouraged councillors to submit questions, concerns and ideas they want to discuss during that meeting.