Washougal City Council, Port of C-W resume in-person meetings

Agencies both plan to keep remote-viewing option for public

Washougal Mayor Rochelle Ramos listens to Washougal City Council member David Stuebe (not pictured) during a city council meeting at Washougal City Hall on March 14, 2022. (Doug Flanagan/Post-Record files)

The Washougal City Council and the Port of Camas-Washougal Board of Commissioners have announced a return to in-person meetings.

On Monday, March 14, the city council held its first in-person council meeting at Washougal City Hall since March 2020. The Port Commission intends to resume in-person meetings at the Port’s administrative office on April 6, for the first time since August 2021.

The Washougal City Council and Port commission transitioned to virtual meetings in March 2020 to help slow the spread of COVID-19 and in accordance with state public health mandates.

“I’m anxious to move back to in-person meetings,” Washougal City Council member Molly Coston said during a virtual workshop on Feb. 28. “I realize that there is a real advantage to doing Zoom meetings. They’re really easy to do, and you can do them from anywhere, no matter if you’re at home or on the road traveling. However, I think we’re losing an element of collegiality and conversation, and I think that’s important. We haven’t had a meeting shoulder-to-shoulder, so to speak, in almost two years, and I think it’s about time we return to those as soon as it’s convenient.”

The city will continue to broadcast its public meetings via Zoom.

“We’re pretty confident that we’ve got the technology worked out that we can do a hybrid meeting,” Washougal City Manager David Scott said during the Feb. 28 workshop. “It won’t be as good as what we’ll be able to accomplish when our new equipment is installed. I’m sad to report that some of the equipment that will refurbish our audio-video capabilities in the chambers has been on backorder for eight months, so that’s frustrating. … Nonetheless, we have good confidence we can conduct a hybrid meeting via Zoom.”

Community members can attend meetings at City Hall, 1701 “C” St., Washougal, or participate via Zoom. Links to the online meeting will be available on the city’s website beginning at 8 p.m. each Thursday before a scheduled city council meeting.

The council will still accept written comments before and during city council meetings. Written public comments should contain fewer than 300 words and be emailed to publiccomments@cityofwashougal.us. The emails will be routed to the council and included in the record.

Port will give public at-home viewing option

Like the Washougal City Council, the Port of Camas-Washougal Board of Commissioners have decided to resume in-person meetings while giving the public an at-home viewing option via Zoom.

“The Port’s camera and microphone system seemed to work really well for the short time that we held hybrid meetings prior to (the COVID-19 omicron variant), so we feel fortunate to have this technology,” Commission President Cassi Marshall told the Post-Record. “Zoom has been a phenomenal tool for staff, the public and the commission to interact — safely and transparently — over these past two years. That said, meeting in person again will be a welcome change. Maybe I’ll miss the dogs and kids showing up in the backdrop of some meetings, but definitely not the video, audio and connectivity problems that also inevitably popped up.”

The Port’s chief executive officer, David Ripp, told the Post-Record he will “probably still (set) the seats apart” during meetings “to be safe for the time being.”

“We can work to space our seating, if needed, to meet social distancing comfort levels for everyone attending,” Marshall said. “We hope that COVID cases continue to decline so that we can implement these plans and move forward. The Port staff does an amazing job of keeping safety a top priority, and I fully expect that practice to remain as we all navigate these changes.”