Lower Pottsgrove Considers Telecommunications Policy

Lower Pottsgrove’s Board of Commissioners (at top) during their Jan. 4 (2021) meeting

SANATOGA PA – To Zoom, or not to Zoom? During the pandemic, that hasn’t been much of a choice for municipalities in conducting public meetings. To ensure constituents are informed about what’s happening in local government without risking their health, elected officials have turned to online conferencing platforms like Zoom, Cisco WebEx, and GoToMeeting to do business.

But what happens when emergency declarations on how public meetings are held expire, or better still, when the pandemic goes away? Does online video or audio conferencing then become a thing of the past? Lower Pottsgrove’s Board of Commissioners doesn’t think it should. It’s exploring a telecommunications policy to allow its future use.

During their meeting last Thursday (Jan. 21, 2021), commissioners authorized township Manager Ed Wagner and Solicitor Charles Garner to explore future options for using telephones, video teleconferencing, and other potential methods and devices to connect them for government business purposes even when they’re not together in the same location.

A Jan. 12 (Tuesday) memo written by Garner for the board addresses recent legal developments affecting meetings of Pennsylvania’s first-class townships, of which Lower Pottsgrove is one. They seem to make it possible for municipalities to participate in meetings by teleconferencing or telephone after the pandemic emergency and Pennsylvania’s related temporary meeting proclamations end, Wagner said.

It could be particularly valuable, Wagner added, when one or more members of a township board, commission, or agency are physically unable to attend a meeting. That’s occurred recently, when several commissioners separately suffered illnesses but acceptably formed a quorum because teleconferencing was available.

Wagner and Garner expect to research and draft a policy that conforms with Pennsylvania code and recent case law decisions. No timetable was set for completion.

Screenshot photo by The Post