LEWISTON — The Legislature has passed emergency legislation to amend Maine’s Freedom of Access Act to allow governmental bodies, including towns, cities and school districts, to hold meetings by phone or other electronic means.

Committees and councils are still required to provide notice of meetings, as required in current law, but now must also provide notice of how members intend to meet, whether by phone, video or other means. Whatever option is chosen, the meetings have to be set up so all members of the committee can be heard by other members, and also that the public can hear all participants in the meeting to ensure the public has access to all conversations.

In addition, all votes must be taken by roll call and not a show of hands or by consensus.

This emergency provision will last until 30 days after state government determines the COVID emergency has passed.

Here’s how your town and school district will set this up:

Auburn
Auburn already live-streams City Council and School Committee meetings both on Great Falls TV and YouTube. On Monday, the City Council approved the use of remote meetings, and city staff said they were currently working with two separate applications that would allow video conferencing for councilors and an audio component for public participation.

Chesterville

The town has the capacity to use Facebook to livestream meetings as it currently does, Selectmen’s Chairman Edward Hastings IV said.

Farmington

The town already live-streams it board meetings. Town Manager Richard Davis was checking with the local access channel to see if it could be done. The town has a  polycom system.

County Clerk Julie Magoon said she didn’t believe they currently had a system in place but was checking with IT Manager Jim Desjardins to see what could be done.

Jay

They do not have this capacity at this time. The select board’s meeting for Monday is canceled and the next one isn’t until April. They can accommodate three outside people on their phone system but they are limited by the number of cellphones in the office, Town Manager Shiloh LaFreniere said. She plans to look into options.

Kingfield

The town of Kingfield does not have anything in place as of yet.  Administrative Assistant Leanne Targett wondered what other towns are doing: Skype? Facetime?  Conference call?

Lewiston

Lewiston already live-streams its City Council and School Committee meetings on YouTube, and on Tuesday, passed a resolution to allow officials to hold meetings remotely. City staff have not yet said what those remote meetings would look like, or how the public would be allowed to participate.

Livermore

The town of Livermore has very little in the way of equipment, Administrative Assistant Amy Byron said. “I think the best we could do is a conference call and at this point, I don’t know how to do that on our phone system. Something to add to my list before the next meeting.”

Livermore Falls

There is no capacity at this time for the board to meet remotely and the public to hear what is going on, Town Manager Stephen Gould said.

New Sharon

“I have not done it but I assume using Facebook live would work for everyone at no cost,” Select board Chairwoman Lorna Dee Nichols said. She has asked other selectpersons for their input.

Phillips

The town of Phillips does not have the capacity to meet remotely, Town Manager Maureen Haley said.

Rangeley

All meetings have been canceled through March 31, Assistant Town Manager Traci Lavoie said. If the threat is not over by then, a contingency plan will be in put in place.

Wilton

All meetings have been canceled through April 7. Select Board meetings are broadcast on Mt. Blue Television. Town Manager Rhonda Irish said remote meetings would be discussed if and when it becomes necessary to have them.

Norway

Norway Town Manager Dennis Lajoie said the town is in the beginning stages of considering switching to a internet or call-in based meeting system.

Paris

On Thursday, Paris Select Board chairman Rusty Brackett said he didn’t know when, or if remote meetings would be scheduled. On Wednesday, Paris announced that “all town meetings are canceled including the Select Board meeting on March 23.

Oxford

Town Manager Butch Asselin said while the Selectmen’s meeting Thursday night was not going to be remote, it would be live-streamed on Facebook to encourage people to “stay home and watch the meeting.”

The plan is to have future meetings conducted via the internet, but making sure all board members have the proper equipment, a live microphone and a webcam is difficult. He said the April 2 board meeting will be conducted remotely.

Hebron, Waterford,
and Sumner

According to officials, no remote meeting system has been announced at this time.

Buckfield

According to Code Enforcement Officer Joe Roach, the plan is to conduct meetings by conference calls, and have someone broadcast the meeting through the local access channel. He added that the town wanted to make sure the public had access to meetings, and that meetings were still announced in accordance with the Freedom of Access Act.

The March 31 Selectboard meeting will be conducted remotely.

MSAD 52

The MSAD 52 school board planned to hold its regular meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday evening in the Turner Elementary School with most board members and administrators projected in remotely using the Zoom app.
Superintendent Kimberly Brandt, who will attend in person, said members of the public could sit in the gym. Public comment can be made there or by emailing [email protected]

“We will have two rooms projecting the meeting in case we get more than nine total people in attendance,” she said. “This is a first for us. We will learn from it and adjust accordingly going forward.”

RSU 9

“We will be considering remote meetings. We don’t have a plan yet and haven’t had time to work on that at all as we are taking care of student and staff planning first,” Regional School Unit 9 Superintendent Tina Meserve said Thursday.

The next Board of Directors meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, March 24.

RSU 10

Aside from holding their board of directors’ meeting at Rumford Elementary School last Monday, the Regional School Unit 10 with its schools in the Rumford area as well as in the Buckfield and Sumner areas, also live-streamed their meeting on their RSU 10 Facebook page.

The meeting received over 3,000 views and 87 comments. Several comments from viewers said they were thankful to view the video and some, like one viewer, commented that “the voices are all very clear on this streaming video.”

RSU 10 Director of Technology Brian Carrier was asked Monday morning what was the best way to live stream the board meeting and he chose Facebook Live as the streaming service since the RSU already has an RSU 10 Facebook page, he said.

“Users who wanted to view the live feed did not need to have a Facebook account as we were public with our stream,” Carrier said.

This coming Monday, March 23, the RSU 10 board of directors will hold their meeting at Buckfield Junior-Senior High School at 6 p.m. with some of its members attending the meeting in person and others attending virtually from their homes or elsewhere.

For those directors who are attending virtually, the district “… will use Zoom, a digital conference service which provides the scheduling of meetings, virtual face-to-face interactions (both voice and video), screen sharing and much more,” Carrier said.

RSU 56 

RSU 56 will hold its board of directors’ meeting at Dirigo High School on Tuesday, March 24 and will also “offer zoom access and live streaming so people can attend virtually,” said Superintendent Pam Doyen via an email to the board and others on Thursday.

“We are working to limit the number of in-person attendees. If you have the ability (aka technology) to attend virtually, please plan to do so,” Doyen said.

The district includes students from the towns of Canton, Carthage, Dixfield and Peru.

RSU 73

“For our next board meeting coming up, we are going to live stream and have access by phone (speaker) to access questions the best we can, Superintendent Scott Albert said. “This next meeting will be very limited. The agenda goes out today. Not sure what the board schedule will look like after this meeting. We may have a few less if there are no pressing issues and if the schools are still closed down.” Some board members will be located in the Spruce Mountain School Library and some in the cafeteria at the March 26 meeting. There are 13 members on the school board. A telephone number will be given out so that people can call in, he said.


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