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In-person meetings set for city, Fredonia

Fredonia’s Board of Trustees announced at its workshop Monday that its meetings will be open to the public again.

Over in Dunkirk, councilman-at-large Paul VanDenVouver said Tuesday that Common Council meetings will reopen to the public July 6. The group will hold one more meeting with department heads only on Tuesday.

For now, everyone attending the meetings in both municipalities will have to wear masks.

That stems from officials’ uncertainty over how to prove people are vaccinated against COVID-19.

“We’re going to open it up at a capacity and we’re going to request that everyone has a mask on,” VanDenVouver said.

He asked Fire Chief Mike Edwards to come up with a suitable capacity for the council meetings that follows social distancing guidelines.

VanDenVouver added that county officials told him he could divide the room in half, with vaccinated people on one side and the unvaccinated on the other. “I’m not even going to go there with that,” he said.

Fredonia Trustee James Lynden noted Monday that Centers for Disease Control COVID-19 guidelines don’t mandate proof of vaccination for entry into a public meeting or building.

“The sign on the (Village Hall) door still says you have to have a mask on to enter,” he said.

“As Scott (Johnston) and I were outside today, people were wearing masks to enter — all of them, including myself,” added Lynden, who has publicly stated he is vaccinated against COVID-19.

“I think the most important thing is you’re letting, and you want to have, the public involved back with our meetings and in our buildings, due to the guidelines kind of being loosened up a little bit,” Mayor Doug Essek said.

VanDenVouver also spoke of the importance of open, public governmental deliberations.

“We want everyone to know what’s going on,” he said. “If it was up to me, let’s open it up, but you don’t know who has what in the general public.”

Essek asked the Fredonia trustees directly if they wanted to let the public attend next Monday’s meeting masked, under current social distancing guidelines which allow people to sit three feet apart. All agreed.

The Fredonia Access Channel will still be live-streaming Board of Trustees meetings on YouTube, for people who still don’t want to come in person or are turned away due to capacity requirements.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the Board of Trustees’ second-floor meeting space at Village Hall had about 40 seats available for spectators. High-interest meetings often saw spectators standing near the back and overflowing into the hall. The board has occasionally moved meetings into the more spacious Village Court on the third floor of Village Hall.

A note of concern sounded Monday from behind the Fredonia Access Channel camera. Daniel Riewaldt stated that he wanted a barrier between himself and the audience.

“I’m requesting something here to block me from the public,” he said. “I don’t trust somebody saying I’m vaccinated. I’m sorry, but …”

“That’s why we’re saying that everyone has to have a mask,” Trustee Scott Johnston said.

“I still request something blocking me from the public,” Riewaldt said. The trustees agreed to give him something for Monday.

Additionally, village Clerk Annemarie Johnston was directed to notify the media of the reopening.

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