Huntington officials are taking a step toward getting back to more public participation at meetings in the age of COVID-19.
Starting with Tuesday's town board meeting, officials will conduct public hearings online using a preregistration system for residents who want to be heard. Town board meetings have been held virtually and public hearings suspended since late March because of the pandemic. This new system will be in place until public meetings resume at Town Hall.
“While the town board has conducted administrative business at the past few remotely held meetings, certain items require public input,” Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci said. “We have determined we can hold public hearings remotely.”
There are 15 public hearings scheduled for Tuesday, including a proposal to allow the town to more efficiently resolve property nuisance violations and the revised changes to C-6 zoning, a classification for commercially zoned properties that allows mixed-use buildings.
“We intend to have every person who signs up to speak be able to participate,” Lupinacci said. “If we do run into any technical issues the individual will be able to submit documents or statements to the town clerk by email or postal mail."
Until further notice residents who want to participate in town board public hearings must preregister. For the upcoming town board meeting, registration must be in no later than at 2 p.m. Monday, which is 24 hours prior to the meeting start time.
The link to register is on the town’s website. Only individuals speaking at public hearings should register.
Town spokeswoman Lauren Lembo said there have been some technical challenges with people joining meetings and with audio from various attendees.
This is why the list of speakers needs to be compiled before the meeting so that both the information technology department and the supervisor have it.
“And [so] each person who is about to be called on is given access to share their audio and can speak without any significant delays,” Lembo said.
Lupinacci said there are challenges related to using software to hold meetings.
“We have to anticipate those challenges, especially when meetings are broadcast live,” Lupinacci said.
The town board meeting will broadcast live on government access TV channels Optimum 18, FIOS 38 and at huntingtonny.gov/meetings.
The preregistration process is only for town board meetings. The zoning board of appeals has its own procedures, which can be found on the town’s website. The planning board has not yet resumed public hearings.
Written public comment can be sent via email or postal mail to the town clerk for distribution to the town board, Lembo said.