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Towns are slowly beginning to host meetings in person, instead of online. The Sharon selectmen invited a limited number of people to attend their meeting last week. Photo by Leila Hawken

Safely behind a mask at a meeting

Reporter's Notebook

During the COVID-19 pandemic, area towns created a balance between closing their town halls to the public and serving that same public — but by appointment. Providing creative solutions to residents’ needs has made the whole system work.

Boards and commissions have met remotely online, mostly on Zoom, and that has worked. Town officials can meet from home and the Zoom meetings even attract viewers who might not ordinarily come out of an evening to attend a meeting in person. People enjoy “seeing” each other at home, through the novelty of Zoom or other online systems.

From a reporter’s perspective, I can attend any number of such meetings by walking from my living room to the northern end of the dining room table. Travel time is negligible. 

Like emerging after a winter snowfall, town halls are starting to crack their doors open, slowly, to the public.  

In North Canaan, the Planning and Zoning Commission held its regular meeting in the Town Hall meeting room, accommodating a limited number of visitors and inviting the public and reporters to attend by Zoom.  

Last week in Sharon, the selectmen chose to meet together in a well-spaced setting with all precautions taken to ensure public safety. They hope to continue with their meeting-in-person protocol. I applaud their efforts in taking small, safe steps toward normalcy.

Each town knows its situation best.  One by one, folks will emerge to greet one another as before, but until then, there is Zoom and variations on the theme of opening up.

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