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Governments mull virtual meetings amid coronavirus pandemic

Updated March 27, 2020 - 9:19 am

In the age of the coronavirus pandemic, Nevada residents may soon be attending their local government meetings virtually rather than in person.

The North Las Vegas City Council will hold its meeting via teleconference next week, and Henderson plans to use videoconferencing the following week.

Meanwhile, Clark County and Las Vegas are weighing how best to hold their meetings virtually.

It’s a pivot from the routine, authorized by Gov. Steve Sisolak’s suspension of a state requirement that meetings be held in person. The directive, effective until April 16, requires that the public have the opportunity to comment.

“If you kind of think about it at a high level, if there’s silver lining to this crisis, it’s kind of forcing us to do things we probably should have been doing all along,” Las Vegas City Manager Scott Adams said. “But it’s just sped it up.”

On Wednesday, North Las Vegas council members will call in to join the meeting, spokesman Patrick Walker said. It can be viewed on the city’s website, where meetings are routinely streamed.

People wanting to comment on North Las Vegas council agenda items can do so through an online form or by emailing cityclerk@cityofnorthlasvegas.com no later than 3 p.m. Wednesday. Public comment can also be recorded by calling 702-633-1030 no later than 3 p.m. Wednesday.

People who want to comment during the meeting can call 702-669-3472. Callers will be placed in a queue and recognized when it is their time to speak.

At this point, only planning commission and city council meetings will be held virtually, Walker said. Other meetings are postponed until further notice.

Clark County and Henderson

Clark County expects to use a videoconferencing application for its first commission meeting in April, according to county spokesman Erik Pappa.

“The idea would be that commissioners could call in from their homes; some could attend in person if they wanted while engaging in social distancing,” Pappa said.

The county is still working on determining the best method for accepting public input.

“It’s not difficult; it’s just setting up the process,” he said.

The county has been considering holding press briefings over a videoconference application as well, but it has yet to decide whether zoning commissions will be broadcast similarly, Pappa added.

Virtual meetings would be in addition to broadcasts available on normal channels such as social media, online and cable television.

Henderson will hold its April 7 council committee meeting at 10 a.m. through the videoconferencing application Cisco WebEx, spokeswoman Kathleen Richards said. The regular City Council meeting and Henderson Redevelopment Agency meeting will follow at 10:15 a.m. and 11 a.m., respectively.

Council members will be in the council chambers and maintaining at least 6 feet of space between each other, Richards said. The city manager and a deputy city clerk will join council members, but no one else will be in the room, she said.

Public comment for the meetings may be submitted through online forms or the Contact Henderson portal until 5:30 p.m. on April 6. To submit public comment for the committee meeting, click here; to submit comment for the City Council meeting, click here; and to submit public comment for the Redevelopment Agency, click here.

Comments can be submitted up to and during the meeting by emailing cityclerk@cityofhenderson.com. Comments may be submitted during the meeting through WebEx.

Las Vegas

Las Vegas, which also has a meeting scheduled for Wednesday, is exploring the use of videoconferencing software to enable residents to interact with the City Council, according to Adams.

He said the city already prides itself on providing easy access to public information and keeping residents up to date on social media.

“In the spirit of that, we hope to be on the cutting edge on basically creating an electronic town hall to engage our citizens,” he said.

Though the meeting is less than a week away, Adams pointed to recent success in quickly setting up a call center for people wanting to do business with the city. In the first hours of operation, the city got so many calls, it needed to double its staffing, he said.

Contact Blake Apgar at bapgar@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5298. Follow @blakeapgar on Twitter. Contact Shea Johnson at sjohnson@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272. Follow @Shea_LVRJ on Twitter.

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