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County Legislature to begin permitting attendance

Chautauqua County is moving back to hosting in person committee and full legislature meetings, although optional virtual attendance will continue.

Next week starts the legislature’s committee meetings. In the agendas released so far, it states, “All Legislature committee meetings will be held virtually by Zoom and in person in the Legislative Chamber located in the Gerace Office Building on the third floor. The meetings are open to the public and subject to required COVID-19 guidelines. The meetings will continue to be live-streamed on the County’s Facebook page. Public comments during the privilege of the floor may be made in person or by emailing or mailing comments prior to the meeting to the Deputy Clerk of the Legislature, Olivia Ames at AmesO@chqgov.com. Comments received will be read at the privilege of the floor.”

Legislature Chairman Pierre Chagnon, R-Bemus Point, said he is looking forward to meeting in person.

“We just feel the in-person meetings are much more productive. You can see a person’s body language, the conversations are much freer,” he said during a phone interview.

Still, Chagnon understands that some legislators or department heads may not have been vaccinated yet, or don’t feel safe to meet in person.

Because of that, they wanted to make sure attendance is still possible via Zoom. The legislature is not requiring its members or employees to get vaccinated.

The biggest challenge to having meetings both in person and in zoom is for the committees. The committees normally meet in room 331 in the Gerace Office Building, however that room is not equipped with technology to stream meetings. Because of this, the committee meetings are being shifted to the legislative chambers, where the meetings can be streamed.Chagnon isn’t sure at this point how long the committee meetings will be streamed virtually.

One of the advantages is that the public attendance has increased substantially due to them being available on Facebook. Also, by having them streamed, they are automatically logged for future viewing.For the full legislature meetings which are held on the fourth Wednesday of every month, Chagnon said those will be streamed indefinitely. He noted that the legislature was already streaming those meetings prior to COVID.

According to Kathy Tampio, clerk of the legislature, the county began streaming their monthly meetings in late 2016. She did note that due to some technical issues, a few of the meetings weren’t streamed but for the most part, videos of the last five years are available on the county’s Facebook page.

Chagnon said even though they are meeting in person and permitting the public to attend, those who join are still required to wear a mask to enter the Gerace Office Building, even if they are fully vaccinated. He prefers those in attendance to socially distance while sitting and to wear a mask during the meeting. Should individuals wish to speak, they may remove their mask as they approach the microphone and should put it back on afterward.

He said the reason for this is because the legislature is required to follow the same protocols as the New York state courts.

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