By MADDY VITALE
Ocean City Council meetings will hold its first in-person meeting in months on Thursday, March 11.
During the pandemic, City Council relocated its meetings from City Hall to the Senior Center within the Community Center to utilize a larger venue and allow for 6 feet of separation.
However, as COVID-19 cases increased in the county and the state, the meetings were closed to the public. The last meeting the public was able to attend in person was on Thursday, Nov. 5, the Clerk’s Office confirmed.
The meeting next Thursday will be at the Ocean City High School, located on the beach block of Sixth Street.
“The meeting format changed at the request of Council President (Bob) Barr,” Ocean City Public Information Officer Doug Bergen said Wednesday. “I know the city administration and council always want to encourage as much public participation as possible.”
He noted that indoor gatherings for political activities protected under the First Amendment must be limited to 35 percent of a room’s capacity, but no more than 150 people.
Members of the public may attend the meeting in-person in the in the Bill and Nancy Hughes Performing Arts Center, or, participate remotely and a video recording of the meeting will be posted on the City’s website at ocnj.us.
Barr said on Wednesday that, “It is time to get back to in-person meetings.”
“People can still have the option of Zoom if they want it. I imagine that will stay with us for the foreseeable future. But we want to get back to people being at the meetings,” Barr noted. “We don’t want to be isolated from our constituents and the community anymore. We want to do our part to get the community together safely.”
While the high school venue is going to be used for this meeting and city officials emphasized that regulations change with the fluid nature of the pandemic, another location for the meetings may be in the works for the spring.
Michael Allegretto, aide to Mayor Jay Gillian said that the Council wanted to bring the public back, but needed the larger venue and had to decide the best location.
“All winter the only option was the Music Pier but they were fixing the HVAC system,” Allegretto explained. “In the spring we hope to use the Music Pier so people can social distance. It will be a good venue to allow for more space.”
To join the March 11 meeting via Zoom people may go to https://zoom.us/j/98943639850?pwd=QjBYTDZtdVRSaHFLRlJSNmRYVG8yZz09
Meeting ID: 989 4363 9850
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Meeting ID: 989 4363 9850