In light of COVID-19, the council members wanted more frequent updates of what is going on at the county level.
The Volusia County Council will meet weekly on Tuesdays for the foreseeable future as the county continues to monitor the local COVID-19 pandemic's impact, a decision made unanimously by the council at its meeting on Tuesday, April 7.
The meeting was mainly conducted over the phone, with only County Manager George Recktenwald and County Councilman Ben Johnson, and some county staff, being physically present at the council chambers in DeLand. Though technical difficulties did arise, the five-hour long meeting provided the council with an update on the measures being taken to prevent the spread.
Last week's closure of the beaches, reversed 24 hours later, was not discussed at length other than Public Protection Director Joe Pozzo stating lifeguard towers went up again today to address the county's allowance of recreational activity.
It was County Councilwoman Deb Denys who suggested the council meet once a week from now until a return to normalcy, saying that the council needs to have more updates, and not just on issues related to COVID-19. Everything has been interrupted due to the pandemic, she said.
“We have to take the responsibilities as council members for some of the decisions that are made and the outcomes going forward," Denys said.
Kelley voted in favor of the motion, but was vocal about his belief weekly meetings were unnecessary and would take away staff time. He said the council gave County Manager George Recktenwald the power to handle the day-to-day issues with the local state of emergency order, which was extended for the fourth time at the meeting. These orders are only active in seven-day increments.
“Sounds like the majority of you are not wanting to give him the authority to operate," Kelley said. "You want council to do it. I think that goes against what we’re trying to do in a state of emergency.”
Still, he said he wasn't going to vote no if the majority of the council wanted to meet weekly.
"I’m going to support the council and we’ll move forward with that," Kelley said.
Denys said she didn't want to change the emergency order, but that the county manager needs their input.
It wasn't the only motion made at the meeting. County Councilwoman Heather Post made two that died. First, she made a motion to suspend curbside pickup and book drop-offs at county libraries to further enforce the stay-at-home order, but it didn't gain support from the council. Post said libraries weren't an essential service and she was concerned that people leaving their homes to go to the library would then make trips to other locations around town.
Johnson said libraries were helping to keep people home by providing something to do.
“If you leave them home with nothing, then they’re going to roam — they’re going to get out there,” Johnson said.
Later in the meeting, Post made another motion to ask Interim County Attorney Michael Dyer to look into Brevard's ordinance restricting hotels, motels, short-term rentals, campgrounds and vacation rentals from renting to tourists for the next 30 days. That motion died as well.