Town Council, School Building Committee Meetings Cancelled During Coronavirus Outbreak

Watertown’s Town Hall.

Watertown’s Town Council and the School Building Committee will not be meeting until at least April 7, due to the Coronavirus outbreak.

Town Council President Mark Sideris sent an email to Councilors alerting them that for now, they will not be meeting, even using video conferencing. The message reminded the Council that the March 24 Council meeting would not be taking place.

“I cancelled the council meeting scheduled for (Tuesday) as there was nothing pressing that could not be dealt with at a later date,” Sideris said in the message. “I have been getting comments about remote participation by the public and I am trying to be sensitive to that even though we can do that.”

The School Committee held a meeting Monday night using the Zoom teleconferencing app. School Committee members joined from home on their computers, and the meeting was televised by Watertown Cable. Residents were invited to join using Zoom, but some said they had trouble.

During the meeting Sideris said. “I caution that we are treating this an unusual situation. I don’t want to exclude the public if we have the option. I am already getting texts from people saying they are having problems with access.”

Gov. Charlie Baker lifted some parts of the Open Meeting Law as part of one of the orders related to the Coronavirus outbreak, which paves the way for municipal boards and committees to meet remotely. Sideris said the town’s attorney, March Reich, also recommended only meeting remotely if necessary.

“I spoke to the Town Attorney at length and he stated that he would recommend this course of action, and has recommended this to other clients of his, even though we can meet remotely,” Sideris wrote to the Council.

He hopes that the Town Council will be able to hold its April 14 meeting, “but that remains to be seen,” he said.

“At this point there are no critical items or budget issues that we have to deal with,” Sideris said in a message to Watertown News.

The School Building Committee postponed two community forums about the elementary school projects — at Cunniff and Hosmer schools — and one about the Watertown High School project. The next scheduled meeting is in the first week of April, but whether it will be held is still up in the air, Sideris said.

Sideris noted that bid documents went out for the Hosmer and Cunniff school projects on March 12. School Committee Chair John Portz said that request for bids are being accepted and are due in late April (seven weeks later).

Once the bids are in, School officials will see how they compare to the budget estimate, Sideris said.

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