There are regularly-scheduled meetings next week that are going on regardless of the coronavirus (COVID-19) and the fact that gatherings of 10 people or more should be avoided.

The issue was discussed in some context during a meeting of mayors and city administrators, and Wharton County officials and first responders earlier this week.

Among the meetings are Monday’s Wharton County Commissioners Court at 9:30 a.m. inside the Wharton County Annex Building, and the Wharton City Council at 7 p.m. inside Wharton City Hall.

The Board of Trustees with the Wharton Independent School District will be meeting Tuesday, March 24 at 6 p.m. inside the WISD Educational Building.

During a Monday, March 16 meeting before signing disaster declarations, County Judge Phillip Spenrath said not many visitors attend the meetings. He didn’t appear concerned that this meeting would change. The room in which the commissioners court meetings are held is large and visitors customarily sit 3-6 feet from each other. Most times among those who attend and sit in the audience are Sheriff Shannon Srubar, Office of Emergency Management Coordinator Andy Kirkland, Library System Director Elene Gedevani,  and Cindy Hernandez with the county’s tax assessor-collector office. 

Officials from the county clerk, county treasurer, county auditor sit across from the four commissioners and county Attorney Trey Maffett and Joyce Ferrell, administrative assistant to the judge.

WISD to produce video feed

Wharton ISD Superintendent Tina Herrington said there are some changes that will be implemented.

WISD made this announcement in advance of an audience that exceeds 10 people, which board of trustee meetings always attract that include school administrators, and citizens who want to provide public comments.

WISD released the following regarding its Tuesday meeting.

“We will have multiple conference rooms to hold no more than 10 members of the community. We will deliver the audio of the meeting to the various conference rooms. This will avoid a large gathering at the meeting.  We will also make a video recording of the meeting that will be shared after the meeting for public viewing after the meeting.

Added Herrington: “We will allow individuals to email their public comments that will be read at the meeting. We will need them no later than 10 a.m. on Monday, March 23, emailed to Linda Lins at llins@whartonisd.net.”

Elected officials to sit apart

When City Secretary Paula Favors was asked if there will be changes to the seating arrangement, she said it would affect city staff.

“The city is making changes in the Wharton City Council seating arrangements to make sure everyone is seated at least six feet apart,” Favors said. “City staff that normally attends the city council meetings will video-conference in and I will have them projected on the screens. We do have a small amount of public seating available and I do have it spaced out so everyone would be six feet from each other.”

Favors added that there is not a restriction on the public attending since the normal attendance is low.  

“If the need arises and the attendance is higher than the recommended Center for Disease Control guidelines, the City Council may decide to limit public interaction during public meetings.”

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