When Kingston city council meets on Tuesday, it will be a meeting of firsts — not easy for a municipality that pre-dates Confederation.
Municipal politicians will be voting on whether or not to give the city’s CAO, Lanie Hurdle, unprecedented financial and liability authority.
That new power applies to the existing 2020 budget and unbudgeted emergency expenses related to COVID-19.
Kingston Mayor Brian Paterson says council has already had to make some decisions that will affect the 2020 budget.
“In the last week, we introduced some changes to transit, making transit free for example, that’s not something that was in our city budget.”
Kingston city council meets every two weeks, but in an emergency like the existing pandemic, the mayor argues reacting quickly and nimbly is critical.
“If we had to wait for a council meeting that would be precious time that would be lost and obviously we know that there are lives at stake, that there are health concerns that we need to take account of.”
Paterson says the CAO would keep council informed of all issues that arise and wouldn’t be acting unilaterally.
“The CAO and I are in communication at least a couple of times per day, we’re regularly discussing issues that come up.
The CAO’s authority will likely remain in effect for the duration of the pandemic and council would have to pass another motion to revoke those powers when the crisis is over.
Council will also be holding it’s first remote council meeting on March 24.
Paterson says staff and councillors will be joining the meeting online.
Council will be streamed live and Paterson says it will only be him and a couple of city staff personnel in the council chambers for the meeting.
“We’ve heard very clearly from Dr. Moore, our chief medical officer of health, that we need to limit in-person meetings particularly when we’re talking about city leadership. We want to protect people”
Two Kingston city councillors are already in self-isolation following the advice of public health authorities.
Paterson says they are precautionary measures and neither of the councillors is showing any COVID-19 symptoms.