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Brown County Board tests virtual attendance at meetings

Published: Jan. 20, 2021 at 11:08 PM CST
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BROWN COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) - With tables spread out across the brand new floor of the Brown County Expo Hall, county board supervisors convened their first meeting of 2021 Wednesday night.

However some supervisors were absent, uncomfortable attending the in person meeting until they’re vaccinated.

“I’m scheduled [to get the shot] for the first part of February. I’d have to wait until almost the end of February to get my second one and then I would make sure the medical professional would say it’s ok for me to attend,” said Supervisor Kathy Lefebvre.

We first reported at the beginning of January, Supervisor Lefebvre has been imploring the county and supervisors to find a way for people to attend county board meetings virtually.

Wednesday’s meeting served as a trial run, but it came at a cost.

According to meeting minutes from the January 6 Executive Committee meeting, Wednesday’s board meeting was estimated to cost $1,500.

“Most of that goes towards having someone from PMI entertainment to help out with the sound and be available to help out,” said County Board Chair, Patrick Buckley.

Since July, the County Board has been meeting in-person at the Resch Center, costing the county about $19,000.

County officials say it cost about $1,000 each time supervisors met in person at the Resch and they spent about $7,000 to conduct this year’s annual budget meeting virtually and in person.

The money for those costs will come out of the nearly $1.8 million in CARES Act funding the county received.

“No meeting is really free for us because we have additional staff members to make sure everybody has the ability to log in and if there are any issues we’re able to address them right away. We’re basically putting money in to pay ourselves to have a meeting here.” said Buckley, referring to the Expo Hall.

The county has always paid to meet in person prior to the pandemic.

Minutes from the January 6 Executive Committee meeting show the county paid roughly $6,300 per year to meet in the Green Bay City Hall Council Chambers, plus $4,500 for sharing hardware and another $1,800 for software.

County officials say allowing virtual attendance through Cisco Webex would cost the county much less and give more access to those wanting even more distance than the Expo Center can provide.

“I think it’s really great that they are stepping up now and trying to find a solution that we can all be represented,” said Lefebvre.

The issue to accommodate those who want to attend meetings virtually is expected to be discussed at the next Executive Committee Meeting on January 28.

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