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Virtual component of Town Board meetings to continue permanently, supervisor says

Riverhead Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said Thursday town officials will make Town Board meetings “permanently virtual.”

This means people can comment at meetings without having to actually travel to Town Hall. 

“This will give people the opportunity to speak,” she said. “Most of the towns are adopting this.”

Councilman Tim Hubbard said residents have been asking for it. 

During a brief discussion at Thursday’s work session, officials said factors such as rising COVID-19 cases and gasoline prices may sway people from attending board meetings.

“It works for a lot of people,” Ms. Aguiar said of keeping the virtual option. “If you’re sick or don’t feel well, or if you go away,” you will still be able to participate in the meetings. 

The town currently allows people to comment virtually on public hearings through the Zoom application. 

Speakers can also comment virtually on hearings before the Planning Board and the Zoning Board of Appeals.

The public can continue to attend meetings in person. Meetings are also livestreamed via Channel 22 and on the town website.

Mr. Hubbard added that if people can’t make a public hearing, the board as a rule keeps hearings open for written comment for 10 days.

“There is opportunity if you want to speak up,” he said.

Ms. Aguiar said people can also write or email comments.

“I think the society is advancing to make things as easy as possible,” Councilman Ken Rothwell said.

The board added a Zoom option to the Town Board meetings shortly after the pandemic first hit in 2020 when the public could attend in person. The Town Board had initially considered eliminating the Zoom option last summer, but later backtracked on that.