The Auburn City Council will resume in-person meetings beginning Tuesday with its regularly-scheduled meeting, three days before Gov. Kay Ivey’s Safer at Home order and mask mandate are set to expire.
The city’s decision to resume in-person meetings comes after Ivey announced in early March that the enforcement of masks will no longer be a “government mandate.”
David Dorton, director of Public Affairs for the city of Auburn, said that the city is prepared and ready to host meetings in-person.
“As far as the room, we are still under mask and social distancing,” he said. ‘We’ll have the room ready for that.
“We’ve got chairs marked off to provide for social distances between people and Plexiglas dividers between people.”
Dorton expects that Ivey will look at April Covid numbers before calling off the mandate on April 9.
“We have to see what everything looks like leading up to the 9th to determine future mandates and requirements for council meetings,” Dorton said. “The ability to have Zoom meetings was tied to the emergency order and, unless something changes, that expires in May.
“If something happens or numbers rise, they still have the ability to meet until that emergency order expires.”
Mayor Ron Anders said he believes council members equally join him in excitement to meet back in person after a year away from the chambers. The April 6 meeting will be the first City Council meeting held in the new council chambers, located off North Ross Street.
“I believe the majority of the council is excited about having in-person meetings again,” Anders said. ‘There is so much value to a person talking to you in person. You just don't get that through an electronic meeting.
“The facial expressions, the body language, the way they talk with their hands — all of that is important for us who are receiving comments from our citizens, which is who we work for.”
Anders added that the Council faced some difficulties over the last year conducting meetings via Zoom.
“We have not benefited from not seeing our citizens when making determinations,” Anders said. “I believe I speak for the majority of the Council when I say we are ready to meet back in person to see our citizens.”
As for the mask mandate, Anders said that the city will wait until the governor makes an official recommendation on the matter.
“We will wait for the governor to offer instructions on how to move ahead,” Anders said. “Our first meeting is happening before the mandate expires so we will conduct that meeting with the rules we have currently.
“Once the current Safer at Home order is amended, we will adjust. Our staff is plenty ready to operate this meeting in a safe, responsible and respectful manner.”
The Board of Zoning Adjustment and Planning Commission will hold their April meetings via Zoom since public hearings have already been advertised. They will resume in-person meetings in May.
For anyone who is interested in attending the April 6 council meeting, note that there will be limited seating. The meeting will also be live-streamed on the city’s Facebook and Youtube pages.
Information on other board and commission meetings for April and May, including registration links for Zoom meetings, will be available at auburnalabama.org/coronavirus/meeting-updates.
Other meeting information, including meeting locations, is available on the online Meeting Schedule
No open meetings will be held via Zoom once Ivey's State of Emergency declaration for the Covid-19 pandemic expires. The current expiration date for the State of Emergency is May 7.