It’s been more than 365 days since the Greene County Board of Supervisors has held an in-person meeting due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but with vaccinations increasing and numbers of new cases decreasing, the county is planning to hold its May 11 meeting in person.
“Virginia is eighth in the country right now in terms of doses (given of the COVID-19 vaccine),” Melissa Meador, director of emergency services, told the supervisors at the March 23 meeting. “Dr. (Denise) Bonds and I have traded some emails and talked this morning and while our board of supervisors meetings can technically fall under the exemption for local government, she cautioned us on how to proceed forward and that our current location for board meetings is simply not adequate.”
Meador said hand sanitizer, masks and social distancing measures would still be required.
Board Chairman Bill Martin, Stanardsville, said he agreed the small meeting room was not appropriate for social distancing so only a few people from the public could attend.
“The members of the board of supervisors have missed their personal contact with the public since the pandemic began last year,” Martin said after the meeting. “Holding our meetings online has been less than optimal and not the most efficient way to conduct the peoples’ business. (Greene County Public Schools) Superintendent Dr. (Andrea) Whitmarsh has generously offered to permit the board to the use Performing Arts Center at the high school, so we hope to hold our meetings there beginning in May, until further notice and depending on availability.”
At-Large Supervisor Dale Herring said he thought the school location would work and that it would be possible to dial in to a phone system in the boardroom for recording the meeting.
Ruckersville Supervisor Davis Lamb asked if the public hearing on the budget—scheduled for April 27—could be postponed for an in-person meeting, but the advertisements had already been published with the virtual location.
“My initial thought, Mr. Chairman, is to express my sincere appreciation for the prospect of some lead time, just to make sure we can make a smooth transition,” said County Administrator Mark Taylor. “I believe sincerely we could make the first meeting in May work and, frankly, it’s our role and job to make whatever the board wants to see, work.”
Director of Planning and Zoning Administrator Jim Frydl asked if the change was only for the supervisor meetings or also other boards and commissions.
“I think we’re only talking about the board meetings,” Martin said. “I think the other entities of local government might want to follow our lead and start looking into what all that will entail. If we start having EDA and planning commission meetings, the schools may not be open to those ideas. We’ll just have to take it on an entity-by-entity basis.”
During public comment, resident Gwen Baker said she is excited for the return of in-person meetings.
“I look forward to seeing everybody,” Baker said. “It’s been a long time (since) we’ve gotten to see everybody’s smiling faces. I do want to suggest that we still offer Zoom for those who may not be comfortable yet coming out in public.”
The April 27 Greene County Board of Supervisors meeting will include public hearings on the tax rate and fiscal year 2022 budget and is slated to be a virtual meeting, beginning at 6:30 p.m.