The McLean County Board will try out letting its members attend committee meetings by phone. Several board members including Jim Soeldner are going along with the six month test period only reluctantly.
"But, I am going to be very unforgiving when it comes to problems with connections and problems with members monopolizing the time. Those are my main issues. And if we find that those are causing a problem, I'm going to be vocal."
Other concerns include the mechanics of recognizing a remote board member for speaking when there is no visual component. By law, once a phone line is open, it cannot be muted, so some board members worry about maintaining decorum.
Board Member Sonny O'Connor used the ongoing illness of board member George Wendt to support the program. Wendt has missed the last several meetings. O'Connor says Wendt's absence might make the meetings run shorter, though that's not always a good thing.
"But, you know what, I miss him. I miss his opinions. And I think his opinions are important to all the people of this county. He always plays the devil's advocate for us. He makes us think. And I think that is the importance of having a resolution like this."
The Peoria County Board tried out the system for full board meetings, but pulled back when some board members phoned in from noisy environments and disrupted meetings. Peoria County now allows remote attendance only in committee meetings. A quorum of the board must still be physically present to hold a meeting. Criteria to be eligible for remote attendance include illness and the press of business in another city. State law does not allow those in military service to attend by phone.
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