With members and the public socially distanced, the Kennebunk Select Board, met in person at town hall on June 22, the first time since late March. Members are mulling options on how they’ll decide to continue. Other communities are also deciding when to resume in-person meetings. Tammy Wells photo

KENNEBUNK — Should the Kennebunk Select Board host its meetings live from the third floor of town hall — as it did before coronavirus prompted a switch to online meetings?

Some say yes, others say no, but the board, which met live at the town hall on June 22, the first time since the latter part of March, pledged to review options and discuss the matter further on July 14.

At the meeting, select board members and the public were socially distanced, with their chairs placed six feet apart. There were signs placed on audience chairs, reminding people not to move them. Masks were worn throughout the meeting. Town Clerk Merton Brown placed a fresh disposable barrier on the microphone after each staff person or someone  from the audience spoke at the podium.

Some were uncomfortable with the prospect of meeting live, in person.

“When it was announced (we’d meet) in person rather than over Zoom, I had some concerns,” said select board member Shiloh Schulte. He said he’s aware there were some questions from town committees and the select board about returning to in person meetings, but he said he had “quite a few” reservations about doing so.

He noted that once a municipality or state eases up on restrictions, it is difficult to go back. He said 30 of the country’s 50 states are seeing increases in COVID-19 frequency and an accelerated rise in COVID-19 cases.

“We have the ability to do the work remotely, and we ask the public to (do) as much town business as remotely as possible,” he said.

Schulte suggested that the town look at the percentage of positive state and York County cases on a rolling average and decide if a board or committee should meet in person.

Select board member William Ward suggested using percentages in both York and Cumberland counties, since the two are close together and some people work in one county and live in another.

Decisions on the meeting method would have to be made by a Thursday for meetings scheduled the following week.

The board agreed to examine the possibilities.

Maine opened gatherings to a maximum of 50 people, up from 10, on June 1.

Kennebunkport’s June 25 selectmen’s meeting was scheduled to be virtual, with a discussion on reopening.

Arundel selectmen began meeting in person, with safety protocols, on June 8, said Town Manager Keith Trefethen.

In Saco, City Administrator Bryan Kaenrath said the city council is planning to meet in council chambers at city hall July 13, though that is open to change.

Old Orchard Beach plans a July 14 live town select board meeting.

Maine Municipal Association Executive Director Stephen W. Gove in an email said the association, which provides services and advocacy for Maine’s municipalities, does provide legal guidance on how to conduct Zoom or electronic meetings, but does not advise towns or cities on whether they should use electronic or in-person sessions.

Some municipal councils and boards have resumed live meetings, he said, but the municipal association has not kept a running tally.

“The decision to resume in person meetings often depends on a large enough space being available in the community to accommodate an in-person meeting safely per CDC guidelines,” said Gove. “The city of Augusta, for example, has conducted some in person council meetings at its civic center rather than the much smaller city council chamber.”

Municipalities may continue to conduct board and council meetings by electronic means for 30 days after the end of the governor’s emergency declaration, Gove said.

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