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Fairfield's Boyer, Kooiker hold first 'virtual town hall'

Photo submitted

Fairfield City Council is continuing to hold its meetings at city hall, though it asks the public to watch them online instead of attend them in person.
Photo submitted Fairfield City Council is continuing to hold its meetings at city hall, though it asks the public to watch them online instead of attend them in person.
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FAIRFIELD — Fairfield Mayor Connie Boyer tried something new before Monday’s, March 23, meeting of the Fairfield City Council.

Boyer and City Administrator Aaron Kooiker conducted a “virtual town hall” in the council chambers where they discussed city business and took questions from the public, who watched the event on Facebook. For several months, Boyer has talked about her desire to hold town halls on a regular basis to get feedback from the town’s residents. Since meetings of 10 or more people are no longer possible in Iowa thanks to the coronavirus outbreak, Boyer opted to conduct the town hall “virtually” over the internet. She said she hopes to do a town hall every three months.

Boyer said that 37 people watched the town hall live, but learned Tuesday morning that the video had amassed over 1,000 views on YouTube.

“I wasn’t surprised the numbers were low at the time because it was kind of a last-minute decision to do it,” Boyer said. “But the fact that so many people watched it later makes me happy.”

The city requested that the public not attend its council meeting that night, but rather to watch the livestream of the event on the Fairfield Media Center’s YouTube channel. Kooiker announced that the council will change the way it conducts public hearings for the foreseeable future. Instead of inviting members of the public to attend a meeting in person, the city is asking those who wish to speak make arrangements to do so ahead of time, by 5 p.m. on the Thursday before the meeting. A city staffer will instruct the person in how to call in during the public hearing itself the following Monday night.

Boyer said she hopes the city can keep public hearings to a minimum during this time when public gatherings are discouraged. She added that the council was prepared to accommodate in-person spectators at Monday’s meeting, on the condition that only one member of the public enter the council chambers at a time, but nobody showed up. One person did call in during a public hearing, though.

In city business news, the council passed a series of resolutions related to using federal dollars through the Iowa Department of Transportation for local road projects, such as work on 32nd Street and Fourth Street in 2021, and reconstruction of South Highway 1 near Libertyville Drive in 2022.

Boyer reported on the activities of the Nady Land Committee, formed to administer land north of Waterworks Park that was given to the city. She said the committee will give a progress report on its activities in May.