The Iowa City Council will resume in-person meetings, starting on Tuesday. But instead of meeting at City Hall, the council will be holding both its work sessions and formal session in the assembly room of the Senior Center (28 S Linn St).
“The Center’s assembly room is larger than City Hall’s Emma Harvat Hall, and provides seating that allows for social distancing,” the city said in a news release on Thursday.
In addition to encouraging social distancing for those attending council meetings, the city is encouraging, but not requiring, mask wearing. Masks will be available for anyone who needs them, as will hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes.
The move to return to in-person meetings comes after Gov. Kim Reynolds issued her most recent Proclamation of Emergency Disaster last week. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the governor’s proclamations have included a provision that allows local government to conduct official meetings online, and the Iowa City Council began using Zoom for their meetings on March 24, 2020. But in her latest proclamation, many sections, including the one granting local governments the exemption from holding in-person meetings, ends with the line, “Iowans should not expect this suspension will be extended beyond July 25, 2021.”
Expecting the governor won’t renew its ability to hold meetings virtually, the city is asking all of its boards and commissions to plan for a return to in-person meetings. Members are being asked if they are comfortable holding meetings in the spaces they had used prior to the pandemic, or if they want new locations with more room for social distancing, Iowa City Clerk Kellie Fruehling told Little Village.
Although city council meetings will no longer be on Zoom, they will still be livestreamed on the Iowa City Government Facebook page and on City Channel 4’s site, as they were pre-COVID. Fruehling said the city is looking into recording the meetings of all its boards and commissions, and then making those videos available on Iowa City’s YouTube channel within 48 hours.
Public participation in the city council and other meetings is also reverting to pre-COVID status. Anyone wishing to participate in the public comment section of a meeting must be present at the meeting to do so. Public comments on issues can still be submitted by email or letter as well.
The Iowa City Council’s work session at the Senior Center will begin at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, July 6. Its regular formal session will follow, beginning at 6 p.m.
Because of COVID-19 precautions, only the doors on the Washington Street side of the Senior Center will be open to the public, so anyone wishing to attend the city council’s meetings will have to use that entrance.