Officials consider electronic meeting attendance


HUNTINGBURG — Local governments and boards can adopt policies to allow a member to attend a public meeting electronically.

With that, the public must also be able to view those meetings electronically.

The Huntingburg Common Council implemented such a policy Tuesday evening. The Dubois County Commissioners did so at their meeting on Monday.

“I think this is really valuable for some of the members that travel regularly for their jobs,” Councilman Jeff Bounds said. “I think it’s really important that we try to accommodate them and allow them to participate in these meetings. They want to participate in the meetings. But [it’s out] of their control when they’re out of town.”

City Attorney Phil Schneider created a resolution for the city’s policy. He included all the stipulations listed in the state law. “You can be more restrictive if you wanted to,” he told the council.

The resolution states that at least 50% of the board must be present in person at the meeting. Every member at the meeting must be able to hear, see and communicate with each other simultaneously. The public must be able to hear and observe every board member participating; the exception to this is executive sessions, which the public is not allowed to attend. Votes must be taken by roll call.

A member cannot attend more than 50% of the meetings electronically in a calendar year and cannot attend more than two consecutive meetings by electronic means.

The exceptions to these stipulations are if a person is unable to attend due to military service, illness, death of a relative or an emergency involving threatened or actual injury to person or property. The minutes of the meeting must state whether a member attended in person or electronically, and identify the electronic platform used.

And there are actions that cannot be done through electronic participation: adopting a budget, making a reduction in personnel, initiating a referendum to impose or increase a fee or a penalty, exercising eminent domain, or raising a tax.

Council members agreed that making the policy the least restrictive as possible is best. “We can always come back if we found that somebody was abusing it or if it was costing the city money,” Bounds said.

Electronic meetings have been used during the pandemic as a way for elected officials to safely meet and conduct business.

They were allowed through an executive order implemented by Gov. Eric Holcomb. The Indiana General Assembly took that idea and created legislation allowing the policies. The bill went into effect after it passed and was signed into law by Holcomb in April.

But there are several stipulations that must be followed if a governing body plans to implement a policy.

The council also:

• Approved increasing the water tracker by 10.9 cents. The tracker adjusts the price of water for users as the cost of water fluctuates. The increase comes from the increased cost of water provided by Patoka Lake Regional Water and Sewer District.

• Approved the Huntingburg Public Library Board’s request for a $1.8 million appropriation of funding the library had been saving for more than a decade. The library board plans to used the saved money to make improvements and upgrades to the library. Since library board members are appointed, the funding had to be approved by a body of elected officials.

• Heard no comments concerning the vacation of 115 feet of South Sycamore Street just north of Second Avenue. Final approval of the vacation will be considered at the council’s June 22 meeting.

• Hired Hedinger Roofing to repair City Hall’s roof for $46,970.

• Planned to look at their schedules to see when they will hold a work session for the city’s 2022 budget. The hearing for the proposed budget will be held at the council’s Sept. 28 meeting and the proposal will be considered for adoption at the council’s Oct. 12 meeting.

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