The Strathcona Regional District is pursuing options that would allow directors to participate in board meetings without being physically present.
The board has been considering electronic participation since last year in the event a worst case scenario prevents a director from travelling to the Campbell River board office. Directors travel from Tahsis, Zeballos, Cortes and Quadra islands, as well as Sayward, to participate in board meetings.
Cortes Island Director Noba Anderson said during Wednesday’s board meeting that she would like to see the regional district explore the most basic option – conference calling.
“I think given how rarely it will be used we should test it out at the lowest entry level,” Anderson said.
That option would be the least cumbersome, requiring only access to a phone line or cell phone, however, it would mean voice-only participation.
Campbell River Director Michele Babchuk said she thought it would be a mistake to not explore online meeting options.
“I think it would be unfortunate not to look at online stuff at the low end level,” she said. “To just do phone conferencing would not be beneficial.”
Zeballos Director Julie Colborne, who has long been an advocate for electronic participation, said in the past she has been involved with long distance conferencing and using video makes things much more personal.
“With video participation it helps with the feeling that we’re all here and present in the meeting,” she said, adding that phone conferencing can present its own set of challenges, including dropped calls.
In the end, the board voted to have regional district staff look into both conference calling and online meeting options – albeit those on the low-cost end of the spectrum – and report back to the board.
Tom Yates, the regional district’s corporate services manager, said directors could use their computer, laptop, tablet or smart phone to join the meeting using a software application.
“Features range from simple chat capability to two-way video, shared whiteboards, screen-sharing, electronic voting, raising hands, etc.,” Yates said. “This option does require the attendee to have access to fast and stable Internet connectivity which may be an issue for some attendees in remote locations.”
Nevertheless, he said he can’t see why electronic participation can’t work, and work well.
Yates did caution directors, however, that should the board vote to go ahead with the initiative that it will likely have to change its procedure bylaw.