By Debra Moore
Welcome to Zoom. Beginning with its next meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 9, the Plumas County Board of Supervisors will be accessible to the public via the popular meeting platform.
The board voted 4-1, with Supervisors Dwight Ceresola, Kevin Goss, Greg Hagwood and Sherrie Thrall voting in favor of Zoom and Board Chairman Jeff Engel voting no.
Greg Ellingson, the county’s IT director, had laid out three options for the board to consider: putting public comment on audio files; allowing the public to call in via a queue system (this was feasible for the public comment period, but not for the rest of the agenda); and Zoom.
Initially, some board members favored the queue system, but then County Counsel Gretchen Stuhr said that option wouldn’t suffice if the goal was for the public to be able to comment on every agenda item.
District 1 Supervisor Dwight Ceresola, who represents the eastern end of the county, said that he has attended Portola City Council meetings via Zoom. He liked the opportunities it provides for people to comment during a meeting by raising a virtual hand. “It’s a good system; it’s been working,” he said. “It’s probably more of what’s needed.”
Greg Hagwood, the new supervisor for District 5 agreed. “I think that Zoom has become the community standard for the city, the school district, the college, the hospitals,” he said. “I would suggest it’s the most equitable way for the public to participate.”
The board’s discussion followed a public blitz of emails, phone calls and letters to urge the supervisors to adopt the Zoom platform. Portola resident Josh Hart was one of the first to advocate for making the board meetings more accessible. While the board has been live streaming its meetings, those with questionable or no Internet service could not access the meetings, and there was no mechanism for the public to comment except to attend in person (which is not advised during a pandemic) or emailing comment. However those comments were not read aloud, thus nullifying the intent behind public comment.
Hagwood, who had written an opinion piece supporting the need for more public meetings, which was posted on plumasnews.com and social media, also lauded the IT department. “It made made me realize how significant your department is to this county,” he told Ellingson. “I want you to understand that I know how taxing this can be to you and your staff.”
When contacted after the meeting to determine when the new Zoom meetings would begin, County Administrator Gabriel Hydrick said the platform would be in place Tuesday, Feb. 9. The meetings will continue to be live streamed, but Zoom will be used to allow for public comment.