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Riverhead Town to bring back Zoom for public hearings

Zoom is back. But only for public hearings. 

Riverhead Supervisor Yvette Aguiar announced that videoconferencing would resume in limited fashion at the onset of Tuesday’s Town Board meeting.

The board halted the Zoom component in mid-July, but never took a formal vote on the matter. No vote was taken on the decision to partially reinstate Zoom either. “We have decided to reinstate the use of Zoom for public meetings only,” Ms. Aguiar said, although she later corrected that to say “public hearings” only.

“Public comments will be accepted only for the topic” of the public hearing, she said. “Any other correspondence can be done by telephone, letter, email or in person,” she added. 

Ms. Aguiar said the decision to stop using Zoom was administrative, not legislative, and said four of the five board members agreed with that decision, with Councilwoman Catherine Kent being the only dissenter. 

At the end of the July 15 work session, the News-Review separately interviewed Ms. Aguiar along with council members Ken Rothwell and Frank Beyrodt, all of whom supported ending Zoom. Councilman Tim Hubbard and Ms. Kent were not present at the time. 

The Town Board began using Zoom during the COVID-19 pandemic, in order to limit potentially large gatherings at Town Board meetings. 

Juan Miceli Martinez, a Democratic candidate for town council, urged the board Tuesday to resume the use of Zoom, or to scheduled a public hearing on it. 

Ms. Kent, the Democratic candidate for supervisor, submitted a resolution to hold a Town Board vote on reinstating Zoom, but the other board members didn’t support it. 

Mark Haubner of Aquebogue also supported the continued used of videoconferencing, pointing out that “America has seen the advent of electronic voting, which enables people to participate in the process of democracy in places far from their homes.” 

Videoconferencing has kept many corporations in business, many people employed and many governments functional, he added.

“It seems logical to keep using videoconferencing in conducting the town’s affairs,” Mr. Haubner said. “It also shows a consideration for the difficulty people have when they perform their civic duty by participating in the process of democracy.”