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Parkersburg City Council to hold one April meeting, remotely

PARKERSBURG — The next time Parkersburg City Council meets, most people participating likely won’t be in council chambers.

This month’s meetings were tentatively planned for April 7 and 21, the first and third Tuesdays of the month rather than the traditional second and fourth, largely to accommodate the deadline for approving the levy rates for the upcoming fiscal year. A resolution setting those dates was on the agenda for the March 24 council meeting, which was canceled in the wake of West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice’s March 23 stay-at-home order aimed at curbing the spread of the novel coronavirus.

On Friday, council president Mike Reynolds said there would be only one meeting this month, to be held on the 21st so council can accommodate the levy deadlines.

“I think we’re going to put everything on the agenda for the 21st,” he said. “With nobody really being in the city building, they’re not really generating a lot for us to vote on.”

City services continue to function as much as they can during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the building closed to the public and many employees working from home. Essential services like police,, fire and sanitation remain on the job.

Reynolds said the meeting will be conducted electronically, with details still being worked out.

City Attorney Joe Santer said even if all nine council members participate in the meeting by phone, “there’ll still be a setup where there will be an audio broadcast into council chambers.” That would in turn be broadcast live on YouTube, as had been planned for the March 24 meeting before it was canceled.

A public hearing is required before the laying of the levy. Santer said the process is still being worked out, but there will likely be space set up in a separate room, with a speaker so people can hear the audio from the chambers and a microphone into which they can speak.

“I would assume we’ll set up chairs and make sure those chairs are at least six feet away from each other,” he said. “Obviously the focus is to make sure that everybody’s afforded the best personal protection.”

Members of the media will be able to attend the meeting or cover it via the livestream, Santer said. Those attending would be required to maintain proper physical distancing measures.

Evan Bevins can be reached at ebevins@newsandsentinel.com.

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