Caution tape was placed along the seats in the Gilroy City Council Chambers earlier in 2020 in anticipation of social distancing requirements. Photo: Erik Chalhoub
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The Gilroy City Council is expected to return in-person to its chambers on Sept. 13, after a year-and-a-half of the members meeting in front of computer screens from their homes.

A couple of weeks earlier, City Hall will reopen to the public on Aug. 30.

City Administrator Jimmy Forbis said he doesn’t expect things to look quite like they were when City Hall closed in March 2020 during the initial Covid-19 shelter-in-place order. The city expanded its online services, such as utility bill paying, which will likely reduce the number of residents who visit City Hall, according to Forbis.

“We are looking to reopen the office taking this into consideration,” he said.

Human Resources Director LeeAnn McPhillips said city staff have already made a number of Covid-safe improvements to the offices. Plexiglass barriers, although no longer required, will remain at public counters, while air filters have been upgraded.

“We began shortly after the closure with optimism that we would open much sooner,” she said.

With the Recreation Division staff moving to the Gilroy Senior Center, that frees up more room for the Finance Department, which historically has seen the most public visitors for business licenses, utility paying and other services, according to McPhillips.

The move also allows employees to be more spread out, she added.

From Aug. 30-Dec. 23, City Hall will be open from 8:30am to 4:30pm Mondays through Thursdays, and Fridays by appointment. After a holiday break, it is expected to reopen with extended hours from Jan. 2-June 30, opening at 7am and closing at 6pm, with Fridays remaining appointment-only.

Forbis said the extended time will serve as a trial run, after the city has received feedback that City Hall is inaccessible to residents working traditional hours.

The council chambers will soon receive a variety of technological upgrades in order to run “hybrid” meetings, where residents can view and participate remotely or in person.

In April, the council approved a $143,000 contract with a communications firm to install new cameras, audio system and other equipment necessary to broadcast the meetings on videoconferencing software. Those in the audience will also be able to view slideshows from wherever they are sitting, thanks to an additional screen that will be added.

City boards and commissions are expected to return to in-person meetings in October.

The Gilroy Unified School District Board of Education, meanwhile, is scheduled to return in-person on Aug. 5. More details on the return will be released in the next few weeks, GUSD spokesperson Melanie Corona said.

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Erik Chalhoub joined Weeklys as an editor in 2019. Prior to his current position, Chalhoub worked at The Pajaronian in Watsonville for seven years, serving as managing editor from 2014-2019.


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