The Dane County Board of Supervisors is thinking outside the meeting room.
As cities, counties, and states continue to decrease the number of people gathering at one time in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the county board held its March 19 meeting completely remotely, and will do the same for the upcoming April 2 meeting.
The 37-member board put in place rules that now allow committees to also meet remotely in the coming weeks while the health emergency requires social distancing.
After the successful county board meeting, supervisors began receiving requests from other units of local government wanting to duplicate this process.
County board staff, working closely with county legal and information management colleagues, compiled a toolkit which details the legal underpinnings of a public meeting held fully remotely, the use of technology, the approach to training and outreach, and lessons learned.
Although conducted with each supervisor participating either via computer or telephone, the board adhered to the state Open Meetings Law and worked hard to make the meeting more accessible.
As with most County Board meetings, the March 19 meeting was streamed online for the public to watch, and there was also a phone number for the public to call to listen to the meeting.
As is usually the case at public meetings, the public was also given the opportunity to register to speak about items on the agenda, via an online survey.
“Given the circumstances, the meeting went pretty smoothly. We learned what worked and what was challenging and are making adjustments for the meeting this week,” said County Board Chair Analiese Eicher, from Sun Prairie. “We focused not only on how to hold a meeting using current technology, but also on making certain the public could attend and participate remotely as well.”
The board approved the necessary changes to county ordinance to allow for county committees to be able to address essential business in the coming weeks.
“In a time when everyone is physically isolated, the Board and staff came together to move the people’s business forward,” concluded Eicher.
“I’m pleased to be able to share this toolkit with my local government colleagues,” Eicher added.
The 37-member, nonpartisan Dane County Board of Supervisors represents the needs and welfare of all residents of Dane County, Wisconsin, and sets policy for County operations in the areas of human needs, infrastructure, criminal justice, the environment and county finance.
The county board meets twice monthly at 7 p.m. in Room 201 of the City-County Building.