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story.lead_photo.caption This screenshot is taken from a YouTube video of the June 21, 2021 meeting of the Jefferson City Council, during which some city officials participated virtually. The council unanimously approved a rule change Monday, July 19, to allow members of city committees to participate in meetings virtually.

The Jefferson City Council unanimously approved a rule change Monday night to allow committee members to participate in meetings virtually.

The change came after council members debated for some time over whether to allow for it.

In a compromise, members agreed to more regulation and to allow individual members of boards or committees to participate virtually.

Ward 5 Councilman Jon Hensley proposed a change to the original bill that narrowed the frequency boards can meet fully virtually and provided more oversight.

The change restricts committees to one fully virtual meeting a quarter, or no more than half of the committee's meetings a year, unless otherwise approved by the city administrator.

Permission for an individual member to participate virtually can be approved by the board chair or full board.

The new ordinance does require no more than half of a committee's members be virtual at any given meeting.

"There's also a limitation placed on a number of members of committees who may participate remotely in a particular meeting," Hensley said. "That way we can avoid a situation where an eight-member board has one person in the room and seven people participating remotely, a member of the public shows up and realizes that they're just sort of eavesdropping on a video conference."

Hensley said his goal with the change was to find common ground with council members against virtual participation in meetings.

Ward 4 Councilman Ron Fitzwater, who has spoken out against virtual participation, said he's still against virtual participation, but supported Hensley's work to find middle ground.

"I think he's done a great job of trying to clarify and put some parameters around it," Fitzwater said. "He's been very open to share his thoughts over the last several weeks. I'm going to support what we're doing tonight because I think there's been a lot of work put into it, and I hope we'll use it judicially."

Hensley's changes and the bill as a whole passed unanimously.

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In other business, council members also approved:

A $202,000 appropriation from the general fund, parks fund, airport fund, parking fund, transit fund, wastewater fund and worker's compensation fund to cover escrow for self-funded workers' compensation insurance.

Applications for $306,000 in grant funding through the 2021 Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Program grant cycle, which would bring in $6,000 for the Jefferson City Police Department and $300,000 through the Community Block Grant to address housing needs.

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