The Guilford County Board of Commissioners has now joined the parade of boards, commissions and other bodies – public and private – that aren’t holding physical meetings.
Since the start of the pandemic in March, the board has held its meetings in the usual meeting room at the Old Guilford County Court House in downtown Greensboro. However, on Thursday, July 16, the board is holding its first ever virtual meeting.
On Wednesday, July 15, the county sent out a press release regarding the board’s latest action in light of the coronavirus threat that states, “With some ups and downs along the way, the County has made continual efforts to include the ‘public’ in public meeting. The County has made efforts in allowing speakers from the floor a chance to call in from home and be heard; allowing limited participation for pre-registered speakers for Public Hearings; and taking comments for public hearings through a public email portal.”
The press release went on to say that, now, with the commissioners’ most pressing task of the year behind them – adopting a new county budget, that is – the commissioners decided to take this opportunity in July to test holding a fully virtual meeting.
Many local governments and others, such as the Piedmont Triad Airport Authority, made that jump months ago, and now Guilford County government will join that group. For the last two weeks, Chairman Jeff Phillips and other county officials have been trying to determine the best course of action regarding the board’s only meeting in July. The recent upsurge in COVID-19 cases helped the county officials make that decision.
The day before the board’s first virtual meeting, Phillips stated in a press release that it’s clear to everyone that “the virus will be with us for a while,” and he added that the Board of Commissioners wanted to make sure that staff and commissioners were all comfortable with the technology before holding a virtual meeting.
The commissioners are all intelligent, however, over the years some of them have had trouble adopting to new technology – like the time, years ago, when the board tried out wireless microphones and one commissioner left his on during a closed session and another wore his hot mic into the bathroom broadcasting the sounds to the crowded meeting room – just like in the Naked Gun movie.
In the July 15 press release, Phillips offered his thoughts about the virtual meeting.
“We have been fortunate to have a large enough meeting space to be able to continue social distancing throughout the initial months of the pandemic,” he stated. “We have always strived to continue with public participation, wherever we could safely do so. Regardless of what happens at the State level we, at the County, want to ensure that we are able to continue business with no delays in services whether that is through a hybrid meeting or a fully virtual meeting.”
Those wishing to watch can view the 5:30 p.m. meeting on Spectrum Channel 13, NorthState Channel 31 and AT&T U-verse Channel 99.
Those who wish to participate in the Public Hearing portion of the meeting may submit written comments via email to mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org or by regular mail.
A limited number of “speakers from the floor” will be allowed to address the board over the phone on a first come first served basis. Those who wish to speak should contact the Guilford County Clerk to the Board’s office before 1 p.m. on the day of the meeting.