Wildwood commissioners take measures to adapt to COVID-19 concerns

Wildwood commissioners Monday adopted procedures to hold virtual meetings via the internet and phone during the COVID-19 pandemic.

At a special meeting, they also voted to extend Wildwood’s state of emergency to May 1, to designate city employees as “essential employees” and to continue paying their regular salaries.

A few weeks ago, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis waived the quorum requirements for local governments, which now allows Wildwood commissioners to connect by phone instead of in person.

Under Wildwood’s virtual meeting resolution, the mayor will take the chair in the commission chambers with commissioners connected using communications media technology, such as phones or internet meeting applications. At least three commissioners must be present at city hall, although they can be in separate rooms.

A live audio feed will be provided to the public with a link on the city’s web site. Public access will be provided through GoToMeeting or similar software.

The mayor will follow established meeting procedures. He will call the meeting to order and call the roll of commissioners. Roll-call votes will be taken on each agenda item. Access will be provided for people to offer evidence, testimony or arguments.

Affidavits and written testimony should be submitted in advance as well as presentations, if possible. Written comments will be read into the record.

The resolution to extend the state of emergency empowers the city manager to take any necessary steps to protect the lives of Wildwood residents. It also authorizes the police chief to enforce a prohibition on gatherings of 10 or more people.

Designating all city employees as “essential employees” means they can continue working, receiving their regular pay, and are not subject to the governor’s stay-at-home guidelines.

The resolution also suspends a policy adopted after Hurricane Irma in which employees would receive time-and-a-half pay during emergencies. In a memo to commissioners, City Manager Jason McHugh wrote that the policy was geared to short-term emergencies like hurricanes but is not suitable for long-term situations like the pandemic.

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