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Columbus Commissioners cancel meet as local boards urged to gather virtually


     Columbus County Commissioners have cancelled their scheduled first-Monday meeting, scheduled this evening, Board Clerk June Hall said Monday afternoon.

     That meeting will be rescheduled, though just when, and how had not been determined Monday. A notice from the county said the April 20 meeting will be held “in accordance with the spread of the coronavirus.”

     Commissioners had been scheduled to meet privately, with a Facebook Live feed provided by The News Reporter in Whiteville, because the seven-member board, county manager, county attorney, and clerk would reach the 10-person threshold for mass gatherings set in an Executive Order by Gov. Roy Cooper addressing the COVID-19 crisis, Hall said.

     County staff was working last week on a way to hold meetings virtually, Hall said, but apparently were not able to work through that process in time for Monday’s meeting.

     Columbus County Board of Education members are meeting virtually this evening, Supt. Dr. Deanne Meadows announced last week.

     Elected officials statewide have been encouraged to turn to “electronic measures to conduct business,” a joint news release from legislative leaders and the North Carolina Press Association said Monday.

     “During these unprecedented times, we know that local governing boards have to make tough decisions quickly,” said Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham), House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland), and NCPA Executive Director Phil Lucey. “In order to do so, many boards are turning to electronic measures to conduct business.

     “State law allows for electronic meetings, and we encourage boards to utilize them. Boards should follow the guidance from the Attorney General’s Office about conducting meetings electronically with proper notice, and ideally, at no cost to individual viewers or listeners.

     “Now, more than ever, North Carolinians need to know and understand the decisions their elected officials are making. They also need to prioritize their health and safety. Providing citizens with access to their elected leaders through audio or video streams gives them the ability to stay connected with their government while staying home.”