Durham County commissioners can now officially phone it in.
Commissioners this week approved a remote participation policy for commissioner meetings. The rule change allows elected leaders to participate in meetings via telephone, video conferencing or other means when unable to attend in person.
The rules, adopted without comment as part of the commissioners’ consent agenda Monday, state that commissioners should give as much notice as possible, but at least 24 hours notice, and demonstrate that they are unable to attend the meeting due to illness or disability, employment reasons or a family event or other emergency.
The remote participation will only be allowed during open session when a quorum of the board is physically present.
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Commissioners who take part remotely can’t participate in closed sessions, won’t be allowed to make motions and can’t cast a deciding vote.
The commissioners previously were allowed to participate remotely in work sessions, said Commissioners’ Chairwoman Wendy Jacobs, and listen in on regular sessions but not vote.
The new policy doesn’t limit the number of remote sessions in which a commissioner may participate. Commissioners didn’t want to limit participation in case of unforeseen circumstances, Jacobs said.
“I think we are just going to see how it works and what the challenges might be,” Jacobs said.
County Attorney Lowell Siler said the new policy brings some clarity to future situations.
“It’s suggested if you do it, you have a policy spelling out the details on how you are going to do it,” he said.
In other business, county officials made a presentation on the process to update Durham County’s strategic plan. The plan was adopted in 2012 and updated in 2014.
The proposed revised plan runs 2017-2021.
The five goals of the plan include:
▪ Community empowerment and enrichment, which includes K-12 education, workforce development and other training and related resources.
▪ Health and well-being for all, which includes healthy living programming, environmental health and healthy children initiatives.
▪ Safe community, which includes emergency response services, criminal justice services and other community services.
▪ Environmental stewardship and community prosperity, which includes water quality, agriculture and development review.
▪ Accountable, efficient and visionary government.
Annual updates will be tied to the county budget. Public comments can be made online next week at dconc.gov and at the June 12 commissioners meeting. Commissioners are expected to adopt the plan on June 26 at their regular 7 p.m. meeting.