City council back to in-person meetings

Elected Sun Prairie officials now have the option to attend city meetings virtually or in-person, as do city employees and presenters. Other commissions and committees can vote on how they want to meet.

You’re on mute.

Those words weren’t heard as the City Council returned to in-person meetings Tuesday after more than a year of going virtual to curb the spread of the pandemic.

Sitting on the council dais, with a few plexiglass barriers in-between, all seven Sun Prairie alders and Mayor Paul Esser showed up at city hall.

“It was great to be back,” District 2 Alder Theresa Stevens said, noting that she didn’t have to wait for a virtual lag to talk. “I think already our discussions are better than when we were on zoom.”

Others agreed.

“We can communicate now and read each other’s body language and can see when someone wants to talk,” District 3 Alder Maureen Crombie added.

The city council went virtual during the COVID-19 pandemic Safer-at-Home orders last March. Under the Dane County Emergency Orders, there was no guidance specifically on how city meetings should be held because there are exemptions for government to do essential business.

The city decided to keep Public Health Madison & Dane County safety protocols in place. The city council returned to in-person meetings with the COVID-19 vaccinations rollout and positive cases dropping among vaccinated people. There’s still a concern about the delta variant killing and sickening unvaccinated people around the world.

City of Sun Prairie alders now have the option to attend either virtually or in-person at city meetings, as do city employees and presenters. Other commissions and committees can vote on how they want to meet.

The city is keeping public attendance virtual for city council meetings.

A half a dozen chairs, spaced out six feet, sat empty in the city council chambers Tuesday night, except for Sun Prairie Star staff covering the meetings.

With just a few technical missteps during the July 20 city meeting, the hybrid proved successful said council president Steve Stocker, as he praised the city’s IT and legal staff for making it happen.

“We have an excellent hybrid solution which will allow council members to attend the meeting regardless of where they are,” Stocker said. “I see this as a huge advantage over where we were prior to COVID, as we should rarely lack a quorum to meet.”

Many alders see the virtual meetings as a plus for the public to attend without worrying about transportation, childcare and other things.

Esser said it showed the city’s efforts to move forward, and that in time, the public will be invited back.

Stocker said during a Thursday phone interview that he plans to bring the issue up at the next Committee of the Whole meeting.

“This is the next and final hurdle we need to accomplish in order to make me feel that we are totally back,” Stocker said.

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