By Tia Lynn Ivey
After months of Zoom calls and Livestreamed meetings, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the City of Madison is reopening all board meetings to the public, but with some conditions.
According to City Manager David Nunn, the public will be welcome to attend board meetings, but there will be limited seating, social distancing guidelines practiced, and masks to be distributed to attendees.
“We have the seats spaced out six feet apart and we ordered masks to give out to people who come without them,” said Nunn. “We may have to turn some people away since we can only seat 25-30 people, including staff.”
The public will be welcomed once again to attend all board meetings, including the Downtown Development Authority, the Historic Preservation Commission, Madison Planning and Zoning Commission, the Public Art Commission and the Madison Mayor and City Council.
“We are glad to be able to meet in person again, but we want to take all the necessary precautions to keep our staff and citizens safe,” said Nunn.
Madison Mayor Fred Perriman said masks are not yet required to attend city meetings, but are strongly encouraged.
“We haven’t made it mandatory yet, but we are strongly encouraging all our citizens to wear masks at the meetings and any time they go into public.
Nunn said mask may eventually be made mandatory.
“Wearing a mask is not about you catching the virus, it’s about you not giving the virus to someone else. That’s how we need to think about it. We are telling people that if you are going anywhere that you cannot control who you are around, you need to wear a mask. We want our citizens to stay safe, stay calm, and to take care of each other.”
The next Madison Mayor and City Council meeting is this Monday, July 13 and the first to be reopened to the public. City officials are worried about the possibility of overcrowding due to the public’s interest in controversy surrounding the Confederate monument in Hill Park. Some citizens have requested the statue be taken down or moved. Other citizens have argued the statue should stay put. But the Madison Mayor and City Council will not address the issue at the next council meeting.
“We are concerned a lot of people may show up thinking the council will address the statue matter, but they will not be,” said Nunn.
Mayor Perriman said the council will announce a special public forum dedicated solely to discussing the fate of the Confederate Monument in Hill Park.
“We will not discuss the issue at this coming council meeting, but we will announce a special meeting within the next three months to discuss it, depending on how the pandemic is going. We want to be able to hear from all members of the public before we make a decision.”
While board meetings will not meet in person and be open to the public with some limitations, Madison City Hall has been opened since June to meet the public’s needs.
“We are keeping the status quo going there,” said Nunn. “We are operating under normal operational hours, Our staff is behind the glass to stay safe and we are open and here for the public.”