baton rouge city hall stock

Baton Rouge City Hall

Wednesday will mark the first time the East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council will hold an in-person meeting at City Hall since the coronavirus pandemic started. 

But things won't be 100% back to normal.  

Because the state's Phase 3 restrictions still limits room capacity, only the 12 council members, their staff, city-parish administrative officials and members of the media will be allowed into the council chambers. 

The public will be sequestered in a fourth floor meeting room at the River Center Branch Library, next door to City Hall. The council meeting will be livestreamed in the meeting room and any public comments made there will get livestreamed back to the council during the meeting. 

"It's definitely going to be different but this does provide people the opportunity to come give their comments, in their voice, to the council," said Ashley Beck, the council administrator. "This is a little step closer to the public feeling like they are back engaged in the public meetings."

However, some members of the public don't think it's fair they can no longer submit their comments online and have them read aloud during meetings, which is how things have been done for the past six months while the Metro Council was forced to hold virtual meetings. 

"We've been getting emails from constituents saying there's no reason for that to stop because we're still in a pandemic," Councilwoman Chauna Banks said Monday. "We still need to make allowances for people with underlying health conditions."

Banks said when she made that request she was informed by the Parish Attorney's Office that the city-parish's Code of Ordinances doesn't allow for emailed comments.

Beck said the Metro Council was only allowed to do that for the past few months because a special state law allowed for online public comments if a government body had to meet virtually in order to adhere to coronavirus restrictions. 

"If they want to allow for that, in my opinion, there needs to be an amendment to the code where you set forth the procedures for how that can be done," Beck said.

The council on Wednesday will consider setting a public hearing for Oct. 28 on a proposed resolution from Banks to allow emailed comments on agenda items from the public to be submitted and read aloud during meetings. 

"I know it's a lot to read but maybe council members can help out with that," Banks said. 

The Metro Council is set to meet at 4 p.m. Wednesday. Everyone entering the downtown library must wear a mask.

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