The Gallatin City Council will return to in-person meetings next month after more than a year apart.
City leaders voted unanimously last week to no longer meet electronically beginning in May. When that occurs, meetings will also no longer continue to be broadcast live on the city’s Facebook page or on the Zoom video conferencing program, according to the decision.
“I think we just put it on the public TV channel like we’ve always done it and let’s get on back to like we used to do it before this ever happened,” District 3 Councilman Jimmy Overton said prior to the vote.
Officials say regular council meetings will also still be streamed live on the city’s website at www.gallatintn.gov in addition to on cable once in-person meetings resume on May 4.
Last month, crews finished installing upgraded audiovisual equipment in the Dr. J. Deotha Malone Council Chambers at city hall.
The approximately $85,000 project was paid for using Tennessee CARES Act funding and included the purchase of new microphones, two new 85-inch televisions and an upgraded projector for the room. The new equipment would have also allowed for meetings to continue to broadcast on social media and any video conferencing platform simultaneously.
“The timing of this upgrade was good for the city because our equipment was about 30 years old, and we were really struggling to have it work with any new technology,” Gallatin Communications Director Jeff Hentschel said. “This is going to allow us to be more consistent from week-to-week when we broadcast and archive meetings.
“Just because we are going back to in-person meetings now doesn’t mean we can’t expect to go back to an online format again in the near future. If that happens, we’ll be ready.”
Hentschel also said that he plans to seek approval to share a recording of each meeting to the city’s Facebook page once it has concluded. Archived videos will still continue to be available on the city’s website at www.gallatintn.gov.
The Gallatin City Council has not met in person since March of last year when Gov. Bill Lee signed an executive order allowing governing bodies across the state to meet electronically in an effort to help limit the spread of Covid-19. The order was most recently extended through April 28.
Before making their decision last week, some members of the council expressed hesitation about meeting together again before May.
“Since we have the option with Gov. Lee’s executive order to stay (with electronic meetings) until the end of April… maybe we should keep that date, so we have more time for everybody to get their shots and make it a little bit more feasible for people to be together,” District 2 Councilwoman Eileen George said. District 4 Councilman Craig Hayes also asked if the council chambers could safely accommodate the public once in-person meetings return next month.
“We’ve got rows of chairs that are covered, and some chairs are open, so I think it can be done,” District 5 Councilman John D. Alexander said. “Most of the time we don’t have that many people unless there is some kind of issue or rezoning issue.”
If there is a large crowd in attendance, Mayor Paige Brown said some attendees would have to be accommodated throughout city hall and that “it’s just something we’ll have to manage.”